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>e of Msd/ae, 





King Henry the Eighth's Army. 


By the Rev. EDWARD L. CUTTS, b.a. 





> of Med/a 


J Mid 1971 



CTUP. * AG * 

I. The Origin of Monachism .••••>••••! 

II. The Benedictine Orders 6 

ITT. The Augustinian Ordee .18 

IV. The Military Orders 26 

V. The Orders of Friars ....36 

VI. The Convent 54 

VII. The Monastery ....••...•.70 


I. The Hermits 93 

n. Anchoresses, oe Female Recluses 120 

in. Anchorages 13a 

IV. Consecrated Widows .....152 


I. PlLGR.MS 157 

II. Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Thomas of Canterbury . 176 

Tiii Contents. 



L The Parochial Clergy 195 

n. Clerks in Minor Orders .214 

III. The Parish Priest 222 

IV. Clerical Costume ■. 232 

V. Parsonage Houses 252 


1 267 

n. Sacred Music 284 

m. Guilds of Minstrels . . 298 


I. Saxon Arms and Armour 311 

n. Arms and Armour, from the Norman Conquest downwards . 326 

III. Armour of the Fourteenth Century 338 

IV. The Days of Chivalry 353 

V. Knights-Errant 369 

VI. Military Engines 380 

VII. Armour of the Fifteenth Century . 39$ 

VIII. The Knight's Education ......... 406 

IX. On Tournaments » 4 2 3 

X. Medieval Bowmen 439 

XI. Fifteenth Century and later Armour ; 452 


I. Beginnings of British Commerce 461 

n. The Navy 475 

HI. The Social Position of the Medleval Merchants . . . 487 

IV. Medlsval Trade 5°3 

V. Costume .....*•• 5 l8 

VI. Medieval Towns 5 2< » 




j|E do not aim in these chapters at writing general history, or 
systematic treatises. Our business is to give a series of sketches 
of mediaeval life and mediaeval characters, looked at especially 
from the artist's point of view. And first we have to do with the monies of 
the Middle Ages. One branch of this subject has already been treated in 
Mrs. Jameson's " Legends of the Monastic Orders." This accomplished 
lady has very pleasingly narrated the traditionary histories of the founders 
and saints of the orders, which have furnished subjects for the greatest works 
of mediaeval art ; and she has placed monachism before her readers in its 
noblest and most poetical aspect. Our humbler task is to give a view of 
the familiar daily life of ordinary monks in their monasteries, and of the 
way in which they enter into the general life without the cloister ; — such a 
sketch as an art-student might wish to have who is about to study that 
picturesque mediaeval period of English history for subjects for his pencil 
The religious orders occupied so important a position in mediaeval 
society, that they cannot be overlooked by the historical student ; and 
the flowing black robe and severe intellectual features of the Benedictine 
monk, or the coarse frock and sandalled feet of the mendicant friar, are 
too characteristic and too effective, in contrast with the gleaming armour 


The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

and richly-coloured and embroidered robes of the sumptuous civil 
costumes of the period, to be neglected by the artist. Such an art- 
student would desire first to have a general sketch of the whole 
history of monachism, as a necessary preliminary to the fuller study of 
any particular portion of it. He would wish for a sketch of the internal 
economy of the cloister ; how the various buildings of a monastery were 
arranged ; and what was the daily routine of the life of its inmates. He 
would seek to know under what circumstances these recluses mingled with 
the outer world. He would require accurate particulars of costumes and 
the like antiquarian details, that the accessories of his picture might be 
correct. And, if his monks are to be anything better than representations of 
monkish habits hung upon " lay figures," he must know what kind of men 
the Middle Age monks were intellectually and morally. These particulars 
we proceed to supply as fully as the space at our command will permit. 

Monachism arose in Egypt. As early as the second century we read of 
men and women who, attracted by the charms of a peaceful, contemplative 
life, far away from the fierce, sensual, persecuting heathen world, betook 
themselves to a life of solitary asceticism. The mountainous desert on the 
east of the Nile valley was their favourite resort ; there they lived in little 
hermitages, rudely piled up of stones, or hollowed out of the mountain 
side, or in the cells of the ancient Egyptian sepulchres, feeding on pulse 
and herbs, and water from the neighbouring spring. 

One of the frescoes in the Campo Santo, at Pisa, by Pietro Laurati, 
engraved in Mrs. Jameson's " Legendary Art," gives a curious illustration 
of this phase of the eremitical life. It gives us a panorama of the desert, 
with the Nile in the foreground, and the rock caverns, and the little her- 
mitages built among the date-palms, and the hermits at their ordinary occu- 
pations : here is one angling in the Nile, and another dragging out a net ; 
there is one sitting at the door of his cell shaping wooden spoons. Here, 
again, we see them engaged in those mystical scenes in which an over- 
wrought imagination pictured to them the temptations of their senses 
in visible demon-shapes — beautiful to tempt or terrible to affright ; or 
materialised the spiritual joys of their minds in angelic or divine visions : 
Anthony driving out with his staff the beautiful demon from his cell, or 

The Origin of Monachism. 

rapt in ecstasy beneath the Divine apparition.* Such pictures of the 
early hermits are not infrequent in mediaeval art — one, from a fifteenth 
century MS. Psalter in the British Museum (Domit. A. xviL f. 4 v), 
will be found in a subsequent chapter of this book. 

We can picture to ourselves how it must have startled the refined Graeco- 
Egyptian world of Alexandria when occasionally some man, long lost to 
society and forgotten by his friends, reappeared in the streets and squares 
of the city, with attenuated limbs and mortified countenance, with a dark 
hair-cloth tunic for his only clothing, with a reputation for exalted sanctity 
and spiritual wisdom, and vague rumours of supernatural revelations of the 
unseen world ; like another John Baptist sent to preach repentance to the 
luxurious citizens ; or fetched, perhaps, by the Alexandrian bishop to give 
to the church the weight of his testimony to the ancient truth of some 
doctrine which began to be questioned in the schools. 

Such men, when they returned to the desert, were frequently accom- 
panied by numbers of others, whom the fame of their sanctity and the 
persuasion of their preaching had induced to adopt the eremitical life. 
It is not to be wondered at that these new converts should frequently 
build, or select, their cells in the neighbourhood of that of the teacher whom 
they had followed into the desert, and should continue to look up to him 
as their spiritual guide. Gradually, this arrangement became systematised ; 
a number of separate cells, grouped round a common oratory, contained a 
community of recluses who agreed to certain rules and to the guidance of 
a chosen head ; an enclosure wall was generally built around this group, 
and the establishment was called a /aura. 

The transition from this arrangement of a group of anchorites occupying 
the anchorages of a laura under a spiritual head, to that of a community 

* We cannot pnt down all these supernatural tales as fables or impostures ; similar tales 
abound in the lives of the religious people of the Middle Ages, and they are not unknown 
in modem days: e.g., Luther's conflict with Satan in the Wartzburg, and Colonel 
Gardiner's vision of the Saviour. Which of them (if any) are to be considered true 
supernatural visions, which may be put down as the natural results of spiritual excitement 
on the magination, which are mere baseless legends, he would be a very self-confident 
critic who professed in all cases to decide. 

The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

living together in one building under the rule of an abbot, was natural and 
easy. The authorship of this coenobite system is attributed to St. Anthony, 
who occupied a ruined castle in the Nile desert, with a community of 
disciples, in the former half of the fourth century. The ccenobitical insti- 
tution did not supersede the eremitical ; both continued to flourish together 
in every country of Christendom.* 

The first written code of laws for the regulation of the lives of these 
communities was drawn up by Pachomius, a disciple of Anthony's. 
Pachomius is said to have peopled the island of Tabenne, in the Nile, 
with coenobites, divided into monasteries, each of which had a superior, 
and a dean to every ten monks ; Pachomius himself being the general 
director of the whole group of monasteries, which are said to have con- 
tained eleven hundred monks. The monks of St. Anthony are represented 
in ancient Greek pictures with a black or brown robe, and often with a tau 
cross of blue upon the shoulder or breast. 

St. Basil, afterwards bishop of Cesarsea, who died a.d. 378, introduced 
monachism into Asia Minor, whence it spread over the East. He drew up 
a code of laws founded upon the rule of Pachomius, which was the foun- 
dation of all succeeding monastic institutions, and which is still the rule 
followed by all the monasteries of the Greek Church. The rule of St. Basil 
enjoins poverty, obedience, and chastity, and self-mortification. The habit 
both of monks and nuns was, and still is, universally in the Greek Church, 
a plain, coarse, black frock with a cowl, and a girdle of leather, or cord. 
The monks went barefooted and barelegged, and wore the Eastern tonsure, 
in which the hair is shaved in a crescent off the fore part of the head, 
instead of the Western tonsure, in which it is shaved in a circle off the 
crown. Hilarion is reputed to have introduced the Basilican institution 
into Syria ; St. Augustine into Africa ; St. Martin of Tours into France ; 
St. Patrick into Ireland, in the fifth century. 

The early history of the British Church is enveloped in thick obscurity, but 
it seems to have derived its Christianity (indirectly perhaps) from an Eastern 

* Besides consulting the standard authorities on the archaeology of the subject, the 
student will do well to read Mr. Kingsley's charming book, " The Hermits of the Desert." 

The Origin of Monachism. 

source, and its monastic system was probably derived from that established 
in France by St. Martin, the abbot-bishop of Tours. One remarkable 
feature in it is the constant union of the abbatical and episcopal offices ; 
this conjunction, which was foreign to the usage of the church in general, 
seems to have obtained all but universally in the British, and subsequently 
in the English Church. The British monasteries appear to have been very 
large ; Bede tells us that there were no less than two thousand one hundred 
monks in the monastic establishment of Bangor in the sixth century, and 
there is reason to believe that the number is not overstated. They appear 
to have been schools of learning. The vows do not appear to have been 
perpetual ; in the legends of the British saints we constantly find that the 
monks quitted the cloister without scruple. The legends lead us to imagine 
that a provost, steward, and deans, were the officers under the abbot ; 
answering, perhaps, to the prior, cellarer, and deans of Benedictine insti- 
tutions. The abbot-bishop, at least, was sometimes a married man. 



N the year 529 a.d., St. Benedict, an Italian of noble birth and 
great reputation, introduced into his new monastery on Monte 
Cassino — a hill between Rome and Naples — a new monastic rule. 
To the three vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, which formed the 
foundation of most of the old rules, he added another, that of manual labour 
(for seven hours a day), not only for self-support, but also as a duty to 
God and man. Another important feature of his rule was that its vows 
were perpetual. And his rule lays down a daily routine of monastic life 
in much greatep detail than the preceding rules appear to have done. 
The rule of St. Benedict speedily became popular, the majority of the 
existing monasteries embraced it ; nearly all new monasteries for centuries 
afterwards adopted it ; and we are told, in proof of the universality of its 
acceptation, that when Charlemagne caused inquiries to be made about 
the beginning of the eighth century, no other monastic rule was found 
existing throughout his wide dominions. The monasteries of the British 
Church, however, do not appear to have embraced the new rule. 

St. Augustine, the apostle of the Anglo-Saxons, was prior of the Bene- 
dictine monastery which Gregory the Great had founded upon the Celian 
Hill, and his forty missionaries were monks of the same house. It cannot 
be doubted that they would introduce their order into those parts of 
England over which their influence extended. But a large part of Saxon 
England owed its Christianity to missionaries of the native church sent forth 
from the great monastic institution at Iona and afterwards at Lindisfarne, 
andthese would doubtless introduce their own monastic system. We find, 

The Benedictine Orders, 

in fact, that no uniform rule was observed by the Saxon monasteries ; some 
seem to have kept the rule of Basil, some the rule of Benedict, and others 
seem to have modified the ancient rules, so as to adapt them to their own 
circumstances and wishes. We are not surprised to learn that under such 
circumstances some of the monasteries were lax in their discipline ; from 
Bede's accounts we gather that some of them were only convents of secular 
clerks, bound by certain rules, and performing divine offices daily, but 
enjoying all the privileges of other clerks, and even sometimes being 
married. Indeed, in the eighth century the primitive monastic discipline 
appears to have become very much relaxed, both in the East and West, 
though the popular admiration and veneration of the monks was not 

In the illuminations of Anglo-Saxon MSS. of the ninth and tenth cen- 
turies, we find the habits of the Saxon monks represented of different 
colours, viz., white, black, dark brown, and grey.* In the early MS. Nero 
C. iv., in the British Museum, at f. 37, occurs a very clearly drawn group 
of monks in white habits; another group occurs at f. 34, rather more 
stiffly drawn, in which the margin of the hood and the sleeves is bordered 
with a narrow edge of ornamental work. 

About the middle of the ninth century, however, Archbishop Dunstan 
reduced all the Saxon monasteries to the rule of St, Benedict ; not without 
opposition on the part of some of them, and not without rather peremptory 
treatment on his part ; and thus the Benedictine rule became universal in 
the West The habit of the Benedictines consisted of a white woollen 
cassock, and over that an ample black gown and a black hood. We give 
here an excellent representation of a Benedictine monk, from a book 
which formerly belonged to St. Alban's Abbey, and now is preserved in 
the British Museum (Nero D. vii. f. 81). The book is the official catalogue 
which each monastery kept of those who had been benefactors to the 
hoase, and who were thereby entitled to their grateful remembrance and 
their prayers. In many cases the record of a benefaction is accompanied 
by an illuminated portrait of the benefactor. In the present case, he is 

Strutt's " Dress and Habits of the People of England." 


The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

represented as holding a golden tankard in one hand and an embroidered 
cloth in the other, gifts which he made to the abbey, and for which he is 

thus immortalised in their Catalogus Betiefac- 
torum. Other illustrations of Benedictine monks, 
of early fourteenth century date, may be found 
in the Add. MS. 17,687, at f. 3; again at f. 6, 
where a Benedictine is preaching ; and again 
at f. 34, where one is preaching to a group 
of nuns of the same order; and at f. 41, where 
one is sitting writing at a desk (as in the scrip- 
torium, probably). Yet again in the MS. 
Royal 20 D. vii., is a picture of St. Benedict 
preaching to a group of his monks. A con- 
siderable number of pictures of Benedictine 
monks, illustrating a mediaeval legend of which 
they are the subject, occur in the lower margin 
of the MS. Royal 10 E. iv., which is of late 
thirteenth or early fourteenth century date. A 
drawing of Abbot Islip of Westminster, who 
died a.d. 1532, is given in the "Vetusta Monumenta," vol. iv. PL xvi. 
In working and travelling they wore over the cossack a black sleeveless 
tunic of shorter and less ample dimensions. 

The female houses of the order had the same regulations as those of the 
monks ; their costume too was the same, a white under garment, a black 
gown and black veil, with a white wimple around the face and neck. 
They had in England, at the dissolution of the monasteries, one hundred 
and twelve monasteries and seventy-four nunneries.* For illustration of 
an abbess see the fifteenth century MS. Royal 16 F. ii. at f. 137. 

The Benedictine rule was all but universal in the West for four 
centuries ; but during this period its observance gradually became relaxed. 

Benedictine Monk. 

* This is the computation of Tanner in his " Notitia Monastica ;" but the editors of the 
last edition of Dugdale's "Monasticon," adding the smaller houses or cells, swell the 
number of Benedictine establishments in England to a total of two hundred and fifty- 

The Benedictifie Orders, 

We cannot be surprised if it was found that the seven hours of manual 
labour which the rule required occupied time which might better be 
devoted to the learned studies for which the Benedictines were then, as 
they have always been, distinguished. We should have anticipated that 
the excessive abstinence, and many other of the mechanical observances 
of the rule, would soon be found to have little real utility when simply 
enforced by a rule, and not practised willingly for the sake of self-dis- 
cipline. We are not therefore surprised, nor should we in these days 
attribute it as a fault, that the obligation to labour appears to have been 
very generally dispensed with, and some humane and sensible relaxations 
of the severe ascetic discipline and dietary of the primitive rule to have 
been very generally adopted. Nor will any one who has any experience 
of human nature expect otherwise than that among so large a body of 
men — many of them educated from childhood * to the monastic profession — 
there would be some who were wholly unsuited for it, and some whose vices 
brought disgrace upon it. The Benedictine monasteries, then, at the time 
of which we are speaking, had become different from the poor retired com- 
munities of self-denying ascetics which they were originally. Their general 
character was, and continued throughout the Middle Ages to be, that of 
wealthy and learned bodies ; influential from their broad possessions, but 
still more influential from the fact that nearly all the literature, and art, 
and science of the period was to be found in their body. They were good 

• If a child was to be received his hand was wrapped in the hanging of the altar, " and 
then," says the rule of St. Benedict, " let them offer him.'' The words are " Si quas 
forte de nobilibus offert rilium suum Deo in monasterio, si ipse puer minore aetate est, 
parentes ejus faciant petitionem et manum pueri involvant in pallu altaris, et sic eum 
offerunt " (c. 59). The Abbot Herman tells us that in the year 1055 his mother took him 
and his brothers to the monastery of which he was afterwards abbot. " She went to 
St. Martin's (at Tournay), and delivered over her sons to God, placing the little one in 
his cradle upon the altar, amidst the tears of many bystanders " ( Mai t land s " Dark 
Ages,'' p. 78). The precedents for such a dedication of an infant to an ascetic life are, of 
course, the case of Samuel dedicated by his mother from infancy, and of Samson and 
John Baptist, who were directed by God to be consecrated as Nazarites from birth. A 
law was made prohibiting the dedication of children at an earlier age than fourteen. 
At f. 209 of the MS. Nero D. vii., is a picture of St. Benedict, to whom a boy in 
monk's habit is holding a book, and he is reading or preaching to a group of monks. 

IO The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

landlords to their tenants, good cultivators of their demesnes; great patrons 
of architecture, and sculpture, and painting ; educators of the people in 
their schools ; healers of the sick in their hospitals ; great almsgivers 
to the poor ; freely hospitable to travellers ; they continued regular and 
constant in their religious services; but in housing, clothing, and diet, 
they lived the life of temperate gentlemen rather than of self-mortifying 
ascetics. Doubtless, as we have said, in some monasteries there were 
evil men, whose vices brought disgrace upon their calling; and there 
were some monasteries in which weak or wicked rulers had allowed the 
evil to prevail. The quiet, unostentatious, every-day virtues of such 
monastics as these were not such as to satisfy the enthusiastical seeker 
after monastical perfection. Nor were they such as to command the 
admiration of the unthinking and illiterate, who are always more prone 
to reverence fanaticism than to appreciate the more sober virtues, who 
are ever inclined to sneer at religious men and religious bodies who have 
wealth, and are accustomed to attribute to a whole class the vices of its 
disreputable members. 

The popular disrepute into which the monastics had fallen through 
their increased wealth, and their departure from primitive monastical 
austerity, led, during the next two centuries, viz., from the beginning of 
the tenth to the end of the eleventh, to a series of endeavours to revive 
the primitive discipline. The history of all these attempts is very nearly 
alike. Some young monk of enthusiastic disposition, disgusted with the 
laxity or the vices of his brother monks, flies from the monastery, and 
betakes himself to an eremitical life in a neighbouring forest or wild 
mountain valley. Gradually a few men of like earnestness assemble round 
him. He is at length induced to permit himself to be placed at their 
head as their abbot, requires his followers to observe strictly the ancient 
rule, and gives them a few other directions of still stricter life. The new 
community gradually becomes famous for its virtues ; the Pope's sanction 
is obtained for it ; its followers assume a distinctive dress and name ; and 
take their place as a new religious order. This is in brief the history of 
the successive rise of the Clugniacs, the Carthusians, the Cistercians, and 
the orders of Camaldoli and Vallombrosa and Grandmont ; they all sprang 

The Benedictine Orders* 1 1 

thus out of the Benedictine order, retaining the rule of Benedict as the 
groundwork of their several systems. Their departures from the Bene- 
dictine rule were comparatively few and trifling, and need not be 
enumerated in such a sketch as this : they were in fact only reformed 
Benedictines, and in a general classification may be included with the 
parent order, to which these rivals imparted new tone and vigour. 

The following account of the foundation of Clairvaux by St. Bernard 
will illustrate these general remarks. It is true that the founding of 
Clairvaux was not technically the founding of a new order, for it had been 
founded fifteen years before in Citeaux ; but St. Bernard was rightly 
esteemed a second founder of the Cistercians, and his going forth from the 
parent house to found the new establishment at Clairvaux was under circum- 
stances which make the narrative an excellent illustration of the subject 

"Twelve monks and their abbot," says his life in the " Acta Sanctorum," 
" representing our Lord and his apostles, were assembled in the church. 
Stephen placed a cross in Bernard's hands, who solemnly, at the head of 

his small band, walked forth from Citeaux. Bernard struck 

away to the northward. For a distance of nearly ninety miles he kept 
this course, passing up by the source of the Seine, by Chatillon, of school- 
day memories, till he arrived at La Ferte, about equally distant between 
Troyes and Chaumont, in the diocese of Langres, and situated on the 
river Aube. About four miles beyond La Ferte was a deep valley opening 
to die east. Thick umbrageous forests gave it a character of gloom and 
wildness ; but a gushing stream of limpid water which ran through it was 
sufficient to redeem every disadvantage. In June, a.d. 1115, Bernard 
took up his abode in the valley of Wormwood, as it was called, and began 
to look for means of shelter and sustenance against the approaching 
winter. The rude fabric which he and his monks raised with their own 
hands was long preserved by the pious veneration of the Cistercians. It 
consisted of a building covered by a single roof, under which chapel, 
dormitory, and refectory were all included. Neither stone nor wood hid 
the bare earth, which served for floor. Windows scarcely wider than a 
man's hand admitted a feeble light. In this room the monks took their 
frugal meals of herbs and water. Immediately above the refectory was the 

12 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

sleeping apartment. It was reached by a ladder, and was, in truth, a sort 
of loft. Here were the monks' beds, which were peculiar. They were 
made in the form of boxes or bins of wooden planks, long and wide 
enough for a man to lie down in. A small space, hewn out with an axe, 
allowed room for the sleeper to get in or out. The inside was strewn with 
chaff, or dried leaves, which, with the woodwork, seem to have been 

the only covering permitted The monks had thus got a 

house over their heads; but they had very little else. They had left 
Citeaux in June. Their journey had probably occupied them a fortnight, 
their clearing, preparations, and building, perhaps two months ; and thus 
they would be near September when this portion of their labour was 
accomplished. Autumn and winter were approaching, and they had no 
store laid by. Their food during the summer had been a compound of 
leaves intermixed with coarse grain. Beech-nuts and roots were to be 
their main support during the winter. And now to the privations of 
insufficient food was added the wearing out of their shoes and clothes. 
Their necessities grew with the severity of the season, till at last even salt 
failed them ; and presently Bernard heard murmurs. He argued and 
exhorted ; he spoke to them of the fear and love of God, and strove to 
rouse their drooping spirits by dwelling on the hopes of eternal life and 
Divine recompense. Their sufferings made them deaf and indifferent to 
their abbot's words. They would not remain in this valley of bitterness ; they 
would return to Citeaux. Bernard, seeing they had lost their trust in God, 
reproved them no more ; but himself sought in earnest prayer for release 
from their difficulties. Presently a voice from heaven said, 'Arise, 
Bernard, thy prayer is granted thee.' Upon which the monks said, ' What 
didst thou ask of the Lord ?' ' Wait, and ye shall see, ye of little faith,' was 
the reply ; and presently came a stranger who gave the abbot ten livres." 

William of St. Thierry, the friend and biographer of St. Bernard, describes 
the external aspect and the internal life of Clairvaux. We extract it as a 
sketch of the highest type of monastic life, and as a corrective of the 
revelations of corrupter life among the monks which find illustration in 
these pages. 

"At the first glance as you entered Clairvaux by descending the 

The Benedictine Orders. 13 

hill you could see it was a temple of God ; and the still, silent valley 
bespoke, in the modest simplicity of its buildings, the unfeigned humility 
of Christ's poor. Moreover, in this valley full of men, where no one 
was permitted to be idle, where one and all were occupied with their 
allotted tasks, a silence deep as that of night prevailed. The sounds 
of labour, or the chants of the brethren in the choral service, were the 
only exceptions. The order of this silence, and the fame that went 
forth of it, struck such a reverence even into secular persons that they 
dreaded breaking it — I will not say by idle or wicked conversation, but 
even by pertinent remarks. The solitude, also, of the place — between 
dense forests in a narrow gorge of neighbouring hills — in a certain sense 
recalled the cave of our father St. Benedict, so that while they strove to 
imitate his life, they also had some similarity to him in their habitation 

and loneliness Although the monastery is situated in a valley, 

it has its foundations on the holy hills, whose gates the Lord loveth more 
than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of it, because 
the glorious and wonderful God therein worketh great marvels. There 
the insane recover their reason, and although their outward man is worn 
away, inwardly they are born again. There the proud are humbled, the 
rich are made poor, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them, and 
the darkness of sinners is changed into light A large multitude of blessed 
poor from the ends of the earth have there assembled, yet have they one 
heart and one mind ; justly, therefore, do all who dwell there rejoice with 
no empty joy. They have the certain hope of perennial joy, of their 
ascension heavenward already commenced. In Clairvaux they have found 
Jacob's ladder, with angels upon it ; some descending, who so provide for 
their bodies that they faint not on the way ; others ascending, who so rule 
their souls that their bodies hereafter may be glorified with them. 

" For my part, the more attentively I watch them day by day, the more 
do I believe that they are perfect followers of Christ in all things. When 
they pray and speak to God in spirit and in truth, by their friendly and 
quiet speech to Him, as well as by their humbleness of demeanour, they are 
plainly seen to be God's companions and friends. When, on the other 
hand, they openly praise God with psalmody, how pure and fervent are 

14 The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

their minds, is shown by their posture of body in holy fear and reverence, 
while by their careful pronunciation and modulation of the psalms, is 
shown how sweet to their lips are the words of God — sweeter than honey 
to their mouths. As I watch them, therefore, singing without fatigue from 
before midnight lo the dawn of day, with only a brief interval, they appear 
a little less than the angels, but much more than men 

" As regards their manual labour, so patiently and placidly, with such 
quiet countenances, in such sweet and holy order, do they perform all 
things, that although they exercise themselves at many works, they never 
seem moved or burdened in anything, whatever the labour may be. Whence 
it is manifest that that Holy Spirit worketh in them who disposeth of all 
things with sweetness, in whom they are refreshed, so that they rest even 
in their toil. Many of them, I hear, are bishops and earls, and many 
illustrious through their birth or knowledge ; but now, by God's grace, all 
acceptation of persons being dead among them, the greater any one thought 
himself in the world, the more in this flock does he regard himself as less 
than the least. I see them in the garden with hoes, in the meadows with 
forks or rakes, in the fields with scythes, in the forest with axes. To judge 
from their outward appearance, their tools, their bad and disordered 
clothes, they appear a race of fools, without speech or sense. But a true 
thought in my mind tells me that their life in Christ is hidden in the 
heavens. Among them I see Godfrey of Peronne, Raynald of Picardy, 
William of St. Omer, Walter of lisle, all of whom I knew formerly in the 
old man, whereof I now see no trace, by God's favour. I knew them 
proud and puffed up ; I see them walking humbly under the merciful hand 
of God." 

The first of these reformed orders was the Clugniac, so called because 
it was founded, in the year 927, at Clugny, in Burgundy, by Odo the 
Abbot. The Clugniacs formally abrogated the requirement of manual labour 
required in the Benedictine rule, and professed to devote themselves more 
sedulously to the cultivation of the mind. The order was first introduced 
into England in the year 1077 a.d., at Lewes, in Sussex; but it never 
became popular in England, and never had more than twenty houses 
here, and they small ones, and nearly all of them founded before the reiga 

The Benedictine Orders* 


of Henry II. Until the fourteenth century they were all priories 
dependent on the parent house of Clugny; though the prior of Lewes 
was the High Chamberlain, and often the Vicar-general, of the Abbot of 
Clugny, and exercised a supervision over the English houses of the order. 
The English houses were all governed by foreigners, and contained more 
foreign than English monks, and sent large portions of their surplus 
revenues to Clugny. Hence they were often seized, during war between 
England and France, as alien priories. But in the fourteenth century 
many of them were made denizen, and Bermondsey was made an abbey, 
and they were all discharged from subjection to 
the foreign abbeys. The Clugniacs retained the 
Benedictine habit At Cowfold Church, Sussex, 
still remains a monumental brass of Thomas 
Nelond, who was prior of Lewes at his death, 
in 1433 a^-j m which he is represented in the 
habit of his order.* 

In the year 1084 a.d., the Carthusian order 
was founded by St. Bruno, a monk of Cologne, 
at Chartreux, near Grenoble. This was the most 
severe of all the reformed Benedictine orders. 
To the strictest observance of the rule of Bene- 
dict they added almost perpetual silence ; flesh 
was forbidden even to the sick ; their food was 
confined to one meal of pulse, bread, and water, 
daily. It is remarkable that this the strictest 
of all monastic rules lias, even to the present 
day, been but slightly modified ; and that the Carthusian Monk. 

monks have never been accused of personally deviating from it. The 
order was numerous on the Continent, but only nine houses of the order 
were ever established in England. The principal of these was the Charter- 
house (Chartreux), in London, which, at the dissolution, was rescued 
by Thomas Sutton to serve one at least of the purposes of its original 

* Engraved in Boutell'a " Monumental Brasses," 


The Monks of the Middle Ages, 


foundation — the training of youth in sound religious learning. There were 
few nunneries of the order — none in England. The Carthusian habit con- 
sisted of a white cassock and hood, over that a white scapulary — a long 
piece of cloth which hangs down before and behind, and is joined at the 
sides by a band of the same colour, about six inches wide ; unlike the 
other orders, they shaved the head entirely. 

The representation of a Carthusian monk, on previous page, is reduced 
from one of Hollar's well-known series of prints of monastic cos- 
tumes. Another illustration may be referred to in a fifteenth century 

book of Hours (Add.), at f. 10, where one 
occurs in a group of religious, which includes 
also a Benedictine and a Cistercian abbot, 
and others. 

In 1098 a.d., arose the Cistercian order. 
It took the name from Citeaux (Latinised into 
Cistercium), the house in which the new order 
was founded by Robert de Thierry. Stephen 
Harding, an Englishman, the third abbot, 
brought the new order into some repute ; 
but it is to the fame of St. Bernard, who 
joined it in n 13 a.d., that the speedy and 
widespread popularity of the new order is to 
be attributed. The order was introduced into 
England at Waverly, in Surrey, in n 28 a.d. 
The Cistercians professed to observe the rule 
of St. Benedict with rigid exactness, only that 
some of the hours which were devoted by 
the Benedictines to reading and study, the Cistercians devoted 
to manual labour. They affected a severe simplicity; their houses 
were to be simple, with no lofty towers, no carvings or represen- 
tation of saints, except the crucifix; the furniture and ornaments 
of their establishments were to be in keeping — chasubles of fustian, 
candlesticks of iron, napkins of coarse cloth, the cross of wood, and only 
the chalice might be of precious metal. The amount of manual labour 

Cistercian Monk. 

T/ie Benedictine Orders, 


prevented the Cistercians from becoming a learned order, though they did 
produce a few men distinguished in literature ; they were excellent farmers 
and horticulturists, and are said in early times to have almost monopolised 
the wool trade of the kingdom. They changed the colour of the Bene- 
dictine habit, wearing a white gown and hood over a white cassock ; when 
they went beyond the walls of the monastery they also wore a black cloak. 
St. Bernard of Clairvaux is the great 
saint of the order. They had seventy- 
five monasteries and twenty-six nun- 
neries in England, including some of 
the largest and finest in the kingdom. 

The cut represents a group of Cister- 
cian monks, from a MS. (Vitellius A. 
13) in the British Museum. It shows 
some of them sitting with hands crossed 
and concealed in their sleeves — an atti- 
tude which was considered modest and 
respectful in the presence of superiors ; 
some with the cowl over the head. It 
will be observed that some are and 
some are not bearded. 

The Cistercian monk, whom we give 
ia the opposite woodcut, is taken from Hollar's plate. 

Other reformed Benedictine orders which arose in the eleventh century, 
viz., the order of Camaldoli, in 1027 a.d., and that of Vallombrosa, in 
1073 a.d., did not extend to England. The order of the Grandmon- 
tines had one or two alien priories here. 

The preceding orders differ among themselves, but the rule of Benedict 
is the foundation of their discipline, and they are so far impressed with a 
common character, and actuated by a common spirit, that we may consider 
them all as forming the Benedictine iainily.. 

Group of Cistercian Monks. 



E come next to another great monastic family which is included 
under the generic name of Augustinians. The Augustinians 
claim the great St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, as their founder, 
and relate that he established the monastic communities in Africa, and gave 
them a rule. That he did patronise monachism in Africa we gather from 
his writings, but it is not clear that he founded any distinct order ; nor was 
any order called after his name until the middle of the ninth century. About 
that time all the various denominations of clergy who had not entered the 
ranks of monachism — priests, canons, clerks, &c. — were incorporated by a 
decree of Pope Leo III. and the Emperor Lothaire into one great order, and 
were enjoined to observe the rule which was then known under the name 
of St. Augustine, but which is said to have been really compiled by Ivo 
de Chartres from the writings of St. Augustine. It was a much milder 
rule than the Benedictine. The Augustinians were divided into Canons 
Secular and Canons Regular. 

The Canons Secular of St. Augustine were in fact the clergy of 
cathedral and collegiate churches, who lived in community on the monastic 
model ; their habit was a long black cassock (the parochial clergy did not 
then universally wear black) ; over which, during divine service, they wore 
a surplice and a fur tippet, called an almuce, and a four-square black cap, 
called a baret ; and at other times a black cloak and hood with a leather 
girdle. According to their rule they might wear their beards, but from the 
thirteenth century downwards we find them usually shaven. In the 
Canon's Yeoman's tale, from which the following extract is taken, Chaucer 

The Augustinian Orders. 19 

gives us a pen-and-ink sketch of a canon, from which it would seem that 

even on a journey he wore the surplice and fur hood under the black 


** Ere we had ridden folly five mile," 
At Brighton under Blee us gan atake [overtake] 
A man that clothed was in clothes blake, 
And underneath he wered a surplice. 
• • • • 

And in my hearte wondren I began 
What that he was, till that I understood 
How that his cloak was sewed to his hood,* 
For which when I had long avised me, 
I deemed him some chanon for to be. 
His hat hung at his back down by a lace." 

The hat which hung behind may have been like that of the abbot in a 
subsequent woodcut ; but he wore his hood ; and Chaucer, with his usual 
humour and life-like portraiture, tells us how he had put a burdock leaf 
■ander his hood because of the heat : — 

*« A clote-leaf he had laid under his hood 
For sweat, and for to keep his head from heat. 

Chaucer rightly classes the canons rather with priests than monks : — 

■ All be he monk or frere, 
Priest or chanon, or any other wight." 

The canon whom we give in the wood-cut over-leaf, from one of Hollar's 
plates, is in ordinary costume. An engraving of a semi-choir of canons in 
their furred tippets from the MS. Domitian xvii., will be found in a sub- 
sequent chapter on the Secular Clergy. 

There are numerous existing monumental brasses in which the effigies 
of canons are represented in choir costume, viz., surplice and amice, and 
often with a cope over all ; they are all bareheaded and shaven. We may 
mention specially that of William Tannere, first master of Cobham College 
(died 1 41 8 A.D.), in Cobham Church, Kent, in which the almuce, with its 

* Probably this means that he had " clocks " — little bell-shaped ornaments— sewn to 
the lower margin of his tippet or hood. 


The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

fringe of bell-shaped ornaments, over the surplice, is very distinctly shown j 
it is fastened at the throat with a jewel. The effigy of Sir John Stodeley, 

canon, in Over Winchendon Church, Bucks 
(died 1505), is in ordinary costume, an under 
garment reaching to the heels, over that a 
shorter black cassock, girded with a leather 
girdle, and over all a long cloak and hood. 

The Canons Regular of St. Augustine 
were perhaps the least ascetic of the monastic 
orders. Enyol de Provins, a minstrel (and after- 
wards a monk) of the thirteenth century, says 
of them : " Among them one is well shod, well 
clothed, and well fed. They go out when they 
like, mix with the world, and talk at table." 
They were little known till the tenth or eleventh 
century, and the general opinion is, that they 
were first introduced into England, at Col- 
chester, in the reign of Henry I., where the ruins 
of their church, of Norman style, built of 
Roman bricks, still remain. Their habit was 
like that of the secular canons — a long black 
cassock, cloak ana hood, and leather girdle, and four-square cap ; they are 
distinguished from the secular canons by not wearing the beard. According 
to Tanner, they had one hundred and seventy-four houses in England — 
one hundred and fifty-eight for monks, and sixteen for nuns ; but the 
editors of the last edition of the " Monasticon " have recovered the names 
of additional small houses, which make up a total of two hundred and 
sixteen houses of the order. 

The Augustinian order branches out into a number of denominations ; 
indeed, it is considered as the parent rule of all the monastic orders and 
religious communities which are not included under the Benedictine 
order; and retrospectively it is made to include all the distinguished 
recluses and clerics before the institution of St. Benedict, from the fourth 
to the sixth century. 

Canon of St. Augustine. 

The Augustinian Orders. 21 

The most important branch of the Regular Canons is the Premon- 
stratensian, founded by St Norbert, a German nobleman, who died in 
1 1 34 a.d.; his first house, in a barren spot in the valley of Coucy, in 
Picardy, called Pre-montre, gave its name to the order. The rule was 
that of Augustine, with a severe discipline superadded ; the habit was a 
coarse black cassock, with a white woollen cloak and a white four-square 
cap. Their abbots were not to use any episcopal insignia. The Pre- 
monstratensian nuns were not to sing in choir or church, and to pray in 
silence. They had only thirty-six houses in England, of which Welbeck 
was the chief; but the order was very popular on the Continent, and at 
length numbered one thousand abbeys and five hundred nunneries. 

Under this rule are also included the Gilbertines, who were founded 
by a Lincolnshire priest, Gilbert of Sempringham, in the year 1139 a.d. 
There were twenty-six houses of the order, most of them in Lincolnshire 
and Yorkshire; they were all priories dependent upon the house of 
Sempringham, whose head, as prior-general, appointed the priors of the 
other houses, and ruled absolutely the whole order. All the houses of 
this order were double houses, that is, monks and nuns lived in the same 
enclosure, though with a rigid separation between their two divisions. 
The monks followed the Augustinian rule; the nuns followed the rule 
of the Cistercian nuns. The habit was a black cassock, a white cloak, and 
hood lined with lambskin. The " Monasticon " gives very effective repre- 
sentations (after Hollar) of the Gilbertine monk and nun. 

The Nuns of Fontevraud was another female order of Augustinians, 
of which little is known. It was founded at Fontevraud in France, and 
three houses of the order were established in England in the time of 
Henry II. ; they had monks and nuns within the same enclosure, and all 
subject to the rule of an abbess. 

The Bonhommes were another small order of the Augustinian rule, of 
little repute in England ; they had only two houses here, which, however, 
were reckoned among the greater abbeys, viz., Esserug in Bucks, and 
Edindon in Wilts. 

The female Order of our Saviour, or, as they are usually called, the 
BRiGirriNES, were founded by St Bridget of Sweden, in 1363 aj>. They 

22 The Monks oj the Middle Ages, 

were introduced into England by Henry V., who built for them the once 
glorious nunnery of Sion House. At the dissolution, the nuns fled to 
Lisbon, where their successors still exist. Some of the relics and vest- 
ments which they carried from Sion House have been carefully preserved 
ever since, and are now in the possession of the Earl of Shrewsbury.* 
Their habit was like that of the Benedictine nuns — a black tunic, white 
wimple and veil, but is distinguished by a black band on the veil across 
the forehead. 

Other small offshoots of the great Augustinian tree were those which 
observed the rule of St. Austin according to the regulations of St. Nicholas 
of Arroasia, which had four houses here ; and those which observed the 
order of St. Victor, which had three houses. 

We may refer the reader to two MS. illuminations of groups of religious 
for further illustration of their costumes. One is in the beautiful fourteenth 
century MS. of Froissart in the British Museum (Harl. 4,380, at f. 18 v). 
It represents a dying pope surrounded by a group of representative 
religious, cardinals, &c. Among them are one in a brown beard, and 
with no appearance of tonsure (? a hermit) ; another in a white scapular 
and hood (? a Carthusian) ; another in a black cloak and hood over a 
white frock (? a Cistercian) 3 another in a brown robe and hood, tonsured. 
Again, in the MS. Tiberius B iii. article 3, f. 6, the text speaks of 
" Convens of monkys, chanons and chartreus, celestynes, freres and 
prestes, palmers, pylgreymys, hermytes, and reclus," and the illuminator 
has illustrated it with a row of religious — first a Benedictine abbot ; then a 
canon with red cassock and almuce over surplice; then a monk with 
white frock and white scapular banded at the sides, as in Hollar's cut 
given above, is clearly the Carthusian ; then comes a man in brown, with 
a knotted girdle, holding a cross staff and a book, who is perhaps a friar ; 
then one in white surplice over red cassock, who is the priest; then a 
hermit, in brown cloak over dark grey gown ; and in the background are 
partly seen two pilgrims and a monk. Other illustrations of monks are 
frequent in the illuminated MSS. 

• Mrs. Jameson, "Legends of the Monastic Orders," p. 137. 

The Augustinian Orders. 


The hospitals of the Middle Ages deserve a more extended notice than 
we can afford them here. Some were founded at places of pilgrimage 
and along the high roads, for the entertainment of poor pilgrims and 
travellers. Thus at St. Edmund's Bury there was St. John's Hospital, or 
God's House, without the south gate ; and St. Nicholas Hospital, without 
the east gate ; and St. Peter's Hospital, without the Risley gate ; and St. 
Saviour's Hospital, without the north gate — all founded and endowed by 
abbots of St. Edmund. At Reading there was the Hospital of St. Mary 
Magdalene, for twelve leprous persons and chaplains ; and the Hospital 
of St. Lawrence, for twenty-six poor people and for the entertainment of 
strangers and pilgrims — both founded by abbots of Reading ; one at the 
gate of Fountains Abbey, for poor persons and travellers; one at Glaston- 
bury, under the care of the almoner, for 
poor and infirm persons; &c, &c. In- 
deed, they were scattered so profusely 
up and down the country that the last 
edition of the " Monasticon " enume- 
rates no less than three hundred and 
seventy of them. Those for the poor 
had usually a little chamber for each 
person, a common hall in which they 
took their meals, a chapel in which 
they attended daily service. They 
usually were under the care and go- 
vernment of one or more clergymen ; sometimes in large hospitals of 
a prior and bretheren, who were Augustinian canons. The canons of some 
of these hospitals had special statutes in addition to the general rules, 
and were distinguished by some peculiarity of habit; for example, the 
canons of the Hospital of St John Baptist at Coventry wore a cross on 
the breast of their black cassock, and a similar one on the shoulder of 
their cloak. The poor people were also under a simple rule, and were 
regarded as part 01 the community. The accompanying woodcut enables 
us to place a group of them before the eye of the reader. It is from 
one of the initial letters of the deed (Halt t,4q8) by which Henry VII. 

Bedesmen. Temp. Hen. VII. 

24 The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

founded a fraternity of thirteen poor men (thirteen was a favourite number 
for such hospitals) in Westminster Abbey, who were to be under the 
governance of the monks, and to repay the king's bounty by their prayers. 
The group represents the abbot and jome of the monks, and behind them 
some of the bedesmen, each of whom has the royal badge — the rose and 
crown — on the shoulder of his habit, and holds in his hand his rosary, the 
symbol of his prayers. Happily some of these ancient foundations have 
continued to the present day, and the brethren may be seen yet in coats 
of antique fashion, with a cross or other badge on the sleeve. Examples 
of the architecture of the buildings may be seen in the Bede Houses in 
Higham Ferrers Churchyard, built by Archbishop Chechele in 1422 ; St. 
Thomas's Hospital, Northampton ; Wyston's Hospital, Leicester ; Ford's 
Hospital, Coventry; the Alms Houses at Sherborne; the Leicester 
Hospital at Warwick, &c. Mr. Turner, in the " Domestic Architecture," 
says that there exists a complete chronological series from the twelfth 
century downwards. 

Hospitals were also established for the treatment of the sick, of which 
St. Bartholomew's Hospital is perhaps our most illustrious instance. 
It was founded to be an infirmary for the sick and infirm poor, a lying-in 
hospital for women — there were sisters on the hospital staff, and if the 
women happened to die in hospital their children were taken care of till 
seven years of age. The staff usually consisted of a community living 
under monastic vows and rule, viz., a prior and a number of brethren 
who were educated and trained to the treatment of sickness and disease, 
and one or more of whom were also priests ; a college, in short, of clerical 
physicians and surgeons and hospital dressers, who devoted themselves 
to the service of the sick poor as an act of religion, and had always in 
mind our Lord's words, " Inasmuch as ye do it to one of the least of these 
my brethren, ye do it unto me." In the still existing church of St 
Bartholomew's Hospital, in Smithfield, is a monument of the founder 
" Rahere, first canon and prior," which is, however, of much later date, 
probably of about 1410 a.d. ; his recumbent effigy, and the kneeling figures 
of two of his canons beside him, afford good authorities for costume. They 
have been engraved in the "Vetusta Monumenta," vol. ii. PI. xxxvi. 

T}u Augustinian Orders, 25 

The building usually consisted of a great hall in which the sick lay, a 
chapel for their worship, apartments for the hospital staff, and other apart- 
ments for guests. We are not aware of any examples in England so perfect 
as some which exist in other countries, and we shall therefore borrow some 
foreign examples in illustration of the subject. The commonest form of 
these hospitals seems to have been a great hall divided by pillars into a 
centre and aisles, in which rows of beds were arranged ; with a chapel in a 
separate building at one end of the hall, and other buildings irregularly 
disposed in a courtyard ; as at the Hotel Dieu of Chartres, a building 
of 1 1 53 a.d.,* and the Salle des Morts at Ourscamp.f AtTonerre we find 
a modification of the above plan. The hospital is still a vast hall, but 
is divided by timber partitions along the side walls into little separate 
cells. Above these cells, against the side walls, and projecting partly 
over the cells, are two galleries, along which the attendants might walk 
and look down into the cells. At the east end of this hall two bays 
were screened off for the chapel, so that they who were able might 
go up into the chapel, and they who could not rise from their beds 
could still take part in the service.} At Tartoine, near Laon la Fere, 
is a hospital on a different plan : a hall, with cells on one side of it, is 
placed on one side of a square courtyard, and the chapel and lodgings for 
the brethren on another side of the court § 

• Viollet le Due's " Dictionary of Architecture," vol. vi. p. 104. 
f Ibid. vi. 107. X "**■ *»• u*» $ Ibid. vi. na. 



jE have already sketched the history of the rise of monachism iu 
the fourth century out of the groups of Egyptian eremites, and 
the rapid spread of the institution, under the rule of Basil, over 
Christendom ; the adoption in the west of the new rule of Benedict in the 
sixth century; the rise of the reformed orders of Benedictines in the 
tenth and eleventh centuries ; and the institution in the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries of a new group of orders under the milder discipline of 
the Augustinian rule. We come now to a class of monastics who are 
included under the Augustinian rule, since that rule formed the basis 
of their discipline, but whose striking features of difference from all other 
religious orders entitle them to be reckoned as a distinct class, under the 
designation of the Military Orders. When the history of the mendicant 
orders which arose in the thirteenth century has been read, it will be seen 
that these military orders had anticipated the active religious spirit which 
formed the characteristic of the friars, as opposed to the contemplative 
religious spirit of the monks. But that which peculiarly characterises the 
military orders, is their adoption of the chivalrous crusading spirit of the 
age in which they arose : they were half friars, half crusaders. 

The order of the Knights of the Temple was founded at Jerusalem 
in 1118 a.d., during the interval between the first and second crusades, 
and in the reign of Baldwin I. Hugh de Payens, and eight other brave 
knights, in the presence of the king and his barons, and in the hands 
of the Patriarch, bound themselves into a fraternity which embraced the 
fundamental monastic vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity; and, in 

TTie Military Orders 27 

addition, as the special object of the fraternity, they undertook the task of 
escorting the companies of pilgrims from the coast up to Jerusalem, and 
thence on the usual tour to the Holy Places. For the open country was 
perpetually exposed to the incursions of irregular bands of Saracen and 
Turkish horsemen, and death or slavery was the fate which awaited any 
caravan of helpless pilgrims whom the infidel descried as they swept 
over the plains, or whom they could waylay in the mountain passes. 
The new knights undertook besides to wage a continual war in defence 
of the Cross against the infidel. The canons of the Temple at Jerusalem 
gave the new fraternity a piece of ground adjoining the Temple for the 
site of their home, and hence they took their name of Knights of the 
Temple ; and they gradually acquired dependent houses, which were in 
fact strong castles, whose ruins may still be seen, in many a strong place in 
Palestine. Ten years after, when Baldwin IL sent envoys to Europe to 
implore the aid of the Christian powers in support of his kingdom against 
the Saracens, Hugh de Payens was sent as one of the envoys. His order 
received the approval of the Council of Troyes, and of Pope Eugene III., 
and the patronage of St. Bernard, who became the great preacher of 
the second crusade ; and when Hugh de Payens returned to Palestine, he 
was at the head of three hundred knights of the noblest houses of Europe, 
who had become members of the order. Endowments, too, for their 
support flowed in abundantly ; and gradually the order established depend- 
ent houses on its estates in nearly every country of Europe. The order 
was introduced into England in the reign of King Stephen ; at first its 
chief house, " the Temple," * was on the south side of Holborn, London, 
near Southampton Buildings ; afterwards it was removed to Fleet Street, 
where the establishment still remains, long since converted to other uses ; 
but the original church, with its round nave, after the form of the Church 
of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem,! still continues a monument of the 

* All its houses were called Temples, as all the Carthusian houses were called Char- 
tereux (corrupted in England into Charterhouse). 

t Of the four round churches in England, popularly supposed to have been built by 
the Templars, the Temple Church in London was built by them ; that of Maplestead, in 
Essex, by the Hospitallers ; that of Northampton by Simon de St Urn, first Norman 


The Monks of the Middle Ages* 

wealth and grandeur of the ancient knights. They had only five other 
houses in England, which were called Preceptories, and were dependent 
upon the Temple in London. 

The knights wore the usual armour of the period ; but while other 
knights wore the flowing surcoat of the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, 

or the tight-fitting jupon of the 
fourteenth, or the tabard of the 
fifteenth, of any colour which 
pleased their taste, and often 
embroidered with their armorial 
bearings, the Knights of the 
Temple were distinguished by 
wearing this portion of their 
equipment of white, with a red 
cross over the breast; and over 
all a long flowing white mantle, 
with a red cross on the shouldei ; 
they also wore the monastic ton- 
sure. In the early fourteenth cen- 
tury MS. in the British Museum, 
Royal 1,696, at f. 335, is a 
representation of Eracles, Prior 
at Jerusalem, the Prior of the 
Hospital, and the Master of the 
Temple, sent to France to ask 
for succour. The illumination shows us the King of France sitting on 
his throne, and before him is standing a religious in mitre and crozier, 
who is no doubt Eracles, and another in a peculiarly shaped black 
robe, with a cross patee on the left shoulder, who is either Hugh 
de Payens the Templar, or Raymond de Puy the Hospitaller, but 
which it is difficult to determine. Again, in the fine fourteenth 

A Knight Templar. 

Earl of Northampton, twice a pilgrim to the Holy Land ; and that of Cambridge by some 
unknown individual. 

The Military Orders. 29 

century MS., Nero E. 2, at f. 345 v, is a representation of the 
trial of the Templars : there are three of them standing before the 
Pope and the King of France, dressed in a grey tunic, and over 
that a black mantle with a red cross on the left breast, and a pointed 
hood over the shoulders. Folio 350 represents the Master of the Temple 
being burnt to death in presence of the king and nobles. Again, in 
the fine MS. Royal 20, c. viii., of the time of our Richard II., at f. 42 
and f. 48, are representations of the same scenes. Folio 42 is a group 
of Templars habited in long black coat, fitting close up to the neck, 
like the ordinary civil robes of the time, with a pointed hood (like that 
with which we are familiar in the portraits of Dante), with a cross patee on 
the right shoulder; the hair is tonsured. At f. 45 is the burning of a 
group of Templars (not tonsured), and at f. 48 the burning of the Master 
of the Temple and another (tonsured). Their banner was of a black and 
white striped cloth, called beauscani, which word they adopted as a war- 
cry. The rule allowed three horses and a servant to each knight. 
Married knights were admitted, but there were no sisters of the order. 
The order was suppressed with circumstances of gross injustice and cruelty 
in the fourteenth century, and the bulk of their estates was given to the 
Hospitallers. The knight here given, from Hollar's plate, is a prior of 
the order, in armour of the thirteenth century. 

The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, or the Knights Hospitallers, 
originally were not a military order; they were founded about 1092 by the 
merchants of Amalfi, in Italy, for the purpose of affording hospitality to 
pilgrims in the Holy Land. Their chief house, which was called the 
Hospital, was situated at Jerusalem, over against the Church of the Holy 
Sepulchre; and they had independent hospitals in other places in the 
Holy Land, which were frequented by the pilgrims. Their kindness to 
the sick and wounded soldiers of the first crusade made them popular, 
and several of the crusading princes endowed them with estates ; while 
many of the crusaders, instead of returning home, laid down their arms, 
and joined the brotherhood of the Hospital During this period of their 
history their habit was a plain black robe, with a linen cross upon the left 

SO The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

At length their endowments having become greater than the needs of 
their hospitals required, and incited by the example of the Templars, 
a little before established, Raymond de Puy, the then master of the 
hospital, offered to King Baldwin II. to reconstruct the order on the 
model of the Templars. From this time the two military orders formed a 
powerful standing army for the defence of the kingdom of Jerusalem. 

When Palestine was finally lost to the Christians, the Knights of St. 
John passed into the Isle of Cyprus, afterwards to the Isle of Rhodes, 
and, finally, to the Isle of Malta,* maintaining a constant warfare against 
the infidel, and doing good service in checking the westward progress of 
the Mohammedan arms. In the latter part of their history, and down to 
a recent period, they conferred great benefits by checking the ravages of 
the corsairs of North Africa on the commerce of the Mediterranean and 
the coast towns of Southern Europe. They patrolled the sea in war- 
galleys, rowed by galley-slaves, each of which carried a force of armed 
soldiers — inferior brethren of the order, officered by its knights. They are 
not even now extinct. 

The order was first introduced into England in the reign of Henry I., 
at Clerkenwell ; which continued the principal house of the order in 
England, and was styled the Hospital. The Hospitallers had also 
dependent houses, called Commanderies, on many of their English estates, 
to the number of fifty-three in all. The houses of the military knights in 
England were only cells, erected on the estates with which they had 
been endowed, in order to cultivate those estates for the support of the 
order, and to form depots for recruits ; i.e. for novices, where they might 
be trained, not in learning like Benedictines, or agriculture like Cistercians, 
or preaching like Dominicans, but in piety and in military exercises. A 
plan and elevation of the Commandery of Chabburn, Northumberland, 
are engraved in Turner's " Domestic Architecture," vol. iii. p. 197. 
The superior of the order in England sat in Parliament, and was 

* The order was divided into nations — the English knights, the French knights, &c— 
each nation having a separate house, situated at different points of the island, for its 
defence. These houses, large and fine buildings, still remain, and many unedited records 
of the order are said to be still preserved on the island. 

The Military Orders. 


accounted the first lay baron. When on military duty the knights wore 
the ordinary armour of the period, with a red surcoat marked with a 
white cross on the breast, and a red mantle with a white cross on the 
shoulder. Some of their churches in England possibly had circular 
naves, like the church of the Temple in Jerusalem; out of the four 
"round churches," which remain, one belonged to the Knights of the 
Hospital. The chapel at Chabburn is a rectangular building. There 
were many sisters of the order, 
but only one house of them in 

One of two earlier represen- 
tations of knights of the order 
may be noted here. In a MS. 
in the Library at Ghent, of the 
date of our Edward IV., is a 
picture of John Lonstrother, prior 
of the order; he wears a long 
sleeveless gown over armour. It 
is engraved in the " Archaelogia," 
xiii. 14. The MS. Add. 18,143 
in the British Museum is said 
in a note at the beginning of 
the volume to have been the 
missal of Phillippe de Villiers de 
l'lsle Adam, the famous Grand 
Master of the Order of St John 
of Jerusalem from 1521 to 1534. 

In the frontispiece is a portrait of the Grand Master in a black 
robe lined with fur, and a cross patee on the breast. On the opposite 
page is another portrait of him in a robe of different fashion, with 
a cross rather differently shaped. The monument of the last English 
Prior, Sir Thomas Tresham, in his robes as prior of the order, still 
remains in Rushton Church, Northants. A fine portrait of a Knight 
of Malta is in the National Gallery. The Hospitaller given on the 

A Knight Hospitaller. 

32 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

preceding page, from Hollar's plate, is a (not very good) representation of 
one in the armour of the early part of the fourteenth century, with the 
usual knight's chapeau, instead of the mail hood or the basinet, on his 

It will be gathered from the authorities of the costume of the Knights of 
the Temple and of the Hospital here noted, that when we picture to our- 
selves the knights on duty in the Holy Land or elsewhere, it should be in the 
armour of their period with the uniform surcoat of their order ; but when 
we desire to realise their appearance as they were to be ordinarily seen, in 
chapel or refectory, or about their estates, or forming part of any ordinary 
scene of English life, it must be in the long cassock-like gown, with the 
cross on the shoulder, and the tonsured head, described in the above 
authorities, which would make their appearance resemble that of other 
religious persons. 

Other military orders, which never extended to England, were the 
order of Teutonic Knights, a fraternity similar to that of the Tem- 
plars, but consisting entirely of Germans ; and the order of Our Lady 
of Mercy, a Spanish knightly order in imitation of that of the Trini- 

One other order of religious — the Trinitarians — we have reserved for 
this place, because while by their rule they are classed among the Augus- 
tinian orders, the object of their foundation gives them an affinity with 
the military orders, and their mode of pursuing that object makes their 
organisation and life resemble that of friars. The moral interest of their 
work, and its picturesque scenes and associations, lead us to give a little 
larger space to them than we have been able to do to most of the other 
orders. It is difficult for us to realise that the Mohammedan power 
seemed at one time not unlikely to subjugate all Europe ; and that after 
their career of conquest had been arrested, the Mohammedan states of 
North Africa continued for centuries to be a scourge to the commerce of 
Europe, and a terror to the inhabitants of the coasts of the Mediter- 
ranean. They scoured the Great Sea with their galleys, and captured 
ships; they made descents on the coasts, and plundered towns and 
villages ; and carried off the captives into slavery, and retreated in safety 

The Military Orders. 33 

with their booty, to their African harbours. It is only within quite recent 
tunes that the last of these strongholds was destroyed by an English fleet, 
and that the Greek and Italian feluccas have ceased to fear the Algerine 
pirates. We have already briefly stated how the Hospitallers, after their original 
sendee was ended by the expulsion of the Christians from the Holy Land, 
settled first at Cyprus, then at Rhodes, and did good service as a bulwark 
against the Mohammedan progress ; and lastly, as Knights of Malta, acted 
as the police of the Mediterranean, and did their best to oppose the 
piracies of the Corsairs. But in spite of the vigilance and prowess of the 
knights, many a merchant ship was captured, many a fishing village was 
sacked, and many captives, men, women, and children of all ranks of 
society, were carried off into slavery ; and their slavery was a cruel one, 
exaggerated by the scorn and hatred bred of antagonism in race and 
religion, and made ruthless by the recollection of ages of mutual injuries. 
The relations and friends of the unhappy captives, where they were 
people of wealth and influence, used every exertion to rescue those who 
were dear to them, and their captors were ordinarily willing to set them 
to ransom; but hopeless indeed was the lot of those — and they, of 
course, were the great majority — who had no friends rich enough to help 

The miserable fate of these helpless ones moved the compassion of 
some Christ-like souls. John de Matha, born, in 1154, of noble parents 
in Provence, with Felix de Valois, retired to a desert place, where, at the 
foot of a little hilL a fountain of cold water issued forth ; a white hart 
was accustomed to resort to this fountain, and hence it had received the 
name of Cervus Frigidus, represented in French by (or representing 
the French?) Cerfroy. There, about a.d. 1197, these two good men — the 
Clarkson and Wilberforce of their time — arranged the institution of a new 
Order for the Redemption of Captives. The new order received the approval 
of the Pope Innocent III., and took its place among the recognised orders 
of the church. This Papal approval of their institution constiu ted an 
authorisation from the head of the church to seek alms from all Christen- 
dom in furtherance of their object. Their rules directed that one-third of 
their income only should be reserved for their own maintenance, one-third 


34 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

should be given to the poor, and one-third for the special object of 
redeeming captives. The two philanthropists preached throughout France, 
collecting alms, and recruiting men who were willing to join them in their 
good work. In the first year they were able to send two brethren to Africa, 
to negotiate the redemption of a hundred and eighty-six Christian 
captives; next year, John himself went, and brought back a thankful 
company of a hundred and ten ; and on a third voyage, a hundred and 
twenty more; and the order continued to flourish,* and established a 
house of the order in Africa, as its agent with the infidel. They were 
introduced into England by Sir William Lucy of Charlecote, on his return 
from the Crusade ; who built and endowed for them Thellesford Priory in 
Warwickshire ; and subsequently they had eleven other houses in England. 
St. Rhadegunda was their tutelary saint. Their habit was white, with a 
Greek cross of red and blue on the breast — the three colours being taken 
to signify the three persons of the Holy Trinity, viz., the white, the Eternal 
Father ; the blue, which was the transverse limb of the cross, the Son ; 
and the red, the charity of the Holy Spirit. 

The order were called Trinitarians, from their devotion to the Blessed 
Trinity, all their houses being so dedicated, and hence the significance 
of their badge ; they were commonly called Mathurins, after the name of 
their founder; and Brethren of the Order of the Holy Trinity 
for the Redemption of Captives, from their object. 

Before turning from the monks to the friars, we must devote a brief 
sentence to the Alien Priories. These were cells of foreign abbeys, 
founded upon estates which English proprietors had given to the foreign 
houses. After the expenses of the establishment had been defrayed, the 
surplus revenue, or a fixed sum in lieu of it, was remitted to the parent 
house abroad. There were over one hundred and twenty of them when 
Edward I., on the breaking out of the war with France, seized upon them, 

* An order, called our Lady of Mercy, was founded in Spain in 1258, by Peter 
Nolasco, for a similar object, including in its scope not only Christian captive; to the 
infidel, but also all slaves, captives, and prisoners for debt 

The Military Orders, 35 

in 1285, as belonging to the enemy. Edward II. appears to have pursued 
the same course ; and, again, Edward III., in 1337. Henry IV. only 
reserved to himself, in time of war, what these houses had been accustomed 
to pay to the foreign abbeys in time of peace. But at length they were 
all dissolved by act of Parliament in the second year of Henry V., and 
their possessions were devoted for the most part to religious and charitable 



E have seen how for three centuries, from the beginning of the 
tenth to the end of the twelfth, a series of religious orders 
arose, each aiming at a more successful reproduction of the 
monastic ideal. The thirteenth century saw the rise of a new class 
of religious orders, actuated by a different principle from that of mon. 
achism. The principle of monachism, we have said, was seclusion from 
mankind, and abstraction from worldly affairs, for the sake of religious 
contemplation. To this end monasteries were founded in the wilds, 
far from the abodes of men ; and he who least often suffered his feet 
or his thoughts to wander beyond the cloister was so far the best 
monk. The principle which inspired the Friars was that of devotion 
to the performance of active religious duties among mankind. Their 
houses were built in or near the great towns ; and to the majority of the 
brethren the houses of the order were mere temporary resting-places, from 
which they issued to make their journeys through town and country, 
preaching in the parish churches, or from the steps of the market-crosses, 
and carrying their ministrations to every castle and every cottage. 

" I speke of many hundred years ago, 
For now can no man see non elves mo ; 
For now the great charity and prayers 
Of lymytours and other holy freres 
That serchen every land and every stream 
As thick as motis in the sunne-beam, 
Blessing halls, chambers, kitchens, and bowers, 
Cities and burghs, castles high and towers, 

The Orders of Friars. 37 

Thorps and barns, shippons and dairies, 

This raaketh that there been no fairies. 

For there as wont to walken was an elf. 

There walketh now the lymytour himself 

In undermeles and in morwenings,* 

And sayeth his matins and his holy things, 

As he goeth in his lymytacioun." — Wife of Bath's Tale. 

They were, in fact, home missionaries ; and the zeal and earnestness of 
their early efforts, falling upon times when such an agency was greatly 
needed, produced very striking results. " Till the days of Martin Luther," 
says Sir James Stephen, " the church had never seen so great and effectual 
a reform as theirs . . . Nothing in the histories of Wesley or of Whitefield 
can be compared with the enthusiasm which everywhere welcomed them, 
or with the immediate visible result of their labours." In the character 
of St. Francis, notwithstanding its superstition and exaggerated asceticism, 
there is something specially attractive : in his intense sympathy with the 
sorrows and sufferings of the poor, his tender and respectful love for them 
as members of Christ, his heroic self-devotion to their service for Christ's 
sake, in his vivid realisation of the truth that birds, beasts, and fishes are 
God's creatures, and our fellow-creatures. In the work of both Francis 
and Dominic there is much which is worth careful study at; the present 
day. Now, too, there is a mass of misery in our large towns huge and 
horrible enough to kindle the Christ-like pity of another Francis; in 
country as well as town there are ignorance and irreligion enough to 
call forth the zeal of another Dominic. In our Sisters of Mercy we see 
among women a wonderful rekindling of the old spirit of self-sacrifice, in a 
shape adapted to our time ; we need not despair of seeing the same spirit 
rekindled among men, freed from the old superstitions and avoiding the 
old blunders, and setting itself to combat the gigantic evils which threaten 
to overwhelm both religion and social order. 

Both these reformers took great pains to fit their followers for the 
office of preachers and teachers, sending them in large numbers to 
the universities, and founding colleges there for the reception of their 
students. With an admirable largeness of view, they did not confine 

* Afternoons and mornings. 

38 The Orders of Friars, 

their studies to theology, but cultivated the whole range of Science 
and Art, and so successful were they, that in a short time the pro- 
fessional chairs of the universities of Europe were almost monopolised 
by the learned members of the mendicant orders.* The constitutions 
required that no one should be licensed as a general preacher until 
he had studied theology for three years ; then a provincial or general 
chapter examined into his character and learning ; and, if these were satis- 
factory, gave him his commission, either limiting his ministry to a certain 
district (whence he was called in English a limitour, like Chaucer's Friar 
Hubert), or allowing him to exercise it where he listed (when he was called 
a lister). This authority to preach, and exercise other spiritual functions, 
necessarily brought the friars into collision with the parochial clergy ;t 
and while a learned and good friar would do much good in parishes which 
were cursed with an ignorant, or slothful, or wicked pastor, on the other 
hand, the inferior class of friars are accused of abusing their position by 
setting the people against their pastors whose pulpits they usurped, and 
interfering injuriously with the discipline of the parishes into which they 
intruded. For it was not very long before the primitive purity and zeal of 
the mendicant orders began to deteriorate. This was inevitable ; zeal and 
goodness cannot be perpetuated by a system; all human societies of 
superior pretensions gradually deteriorate, even as the Apostolic Church 
itself did. But there were peculiar circumstances in the system of the mendi- 
cant orders which tended to induce rapid deterioration. The profession of 
mendicancy tended to encourage the use of all those little paltry arts of 

* As an indication of their zeal in the pursuit of science it is only necessary to mention 
the names of Friar Roger Bacon, the Franciscan, and Friar Albert-le-Grand (Albertus 
Magnus), the Dominican. The Arts were cultivated with equal zeal — some of the finest 
paintings in the world were executed for the friars, and their own orders produced artists 
of the highest excellence. Fra Giacopo da Tunita, a celebrated artist in mosaic of the 
thirteenth century, was a Franciscan, as was Fra Antonio da Negroponti, the painter ; 
Fra Fillippo Lippi, the painter, was a Carmelite ; Fra Bartolomeo, and Fra Angelico da 
Fiesole — than whom no man ever conceived more heavenly visions of spiritual loveliness 
and purity — were Dominicans. 

t " By his (i.e. Satan's) queyntise they comen in, 

The curates to helpen, 

But that harmed hem hard 

And help them ful littel." — Piers Ploughman's Creed. 

The Orders of Friars,. 


popularity-hunting which injure the usefulness of a minister of religion, 
and lower his moral tone : the fact that an increased number of friars 
was a source of additional wealth to a convent, since it gave an increased 
number of collectors of alms for it, tended to make the convents less 
scrupulous as to the fitness of the men whom they admitted. So that we 
can believe the truth of the accusations of the old satirists, that dissolute, 
good-for-nothing fellows sought the friar's frock and cowl, for the license 
which it gave to lead a vagabond life, and levy contributions on the 
charitable. Such men could easily appropriate to themselves a portion of 
what was given them for the convent ; and they had ample opportunity, 
away from the control of their ecclesiastical superiors, to spend their 
peculations in dissolute living.* We may take, therefore, Chaucer's Friar 
John, of the Sompnour's Tale, as a type of a certain class of friars ; but we 
must remember that at the same time there were many earnest, learned, 
and excellent men in the mendicant orders ; even as Mawworm and John 
Wesley might flourish together in the same body. 
The convents of friars were not independent bodies, like the Benedictine 

Costumes of the Four Orders of Friars. 

and Augustinian abbeys ; each order was an organised body, governed by the 
general of the order, and under him, by provincial priors, priors of the con- 
vents, and their subordinate officials. There are usually reckoned four orders 
of friars — the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustines. 

* The extract from Chaucer on p. 4b, lines 4, 5, 0, seem to indicate that an individual 
friar sometimes " fanned " the alms of a district, paying the convent a stipulated sum, 
and taking the surplus for himself. 


The Orders of Friars, 

y2& mtn 

**1 found there freresi 
All the foure orders, 
Techynge the peple 
To profit of themselves." 

Piers Ploughman, 1. 215. 

The four orders are pictured together in the woodcut on the preceding 
page from the thirteenth century MS. Harl. 1,527. 

They were called Friars because, out of humility, their founders would 
not have them called Father and Dominus, like the monks, but simply 
Brother (Frater, Frere, Friar). 

The Dominicans and Franciscans arose simultaneously at the 
beginning of the thirteenth century. Dominic, an Augustinian canon, 

a Spaniard of noble birth, was seized with a 
zeal for converting heretics, and having 
gradually associated a few ecclesiastics with 
himself, he at length conceived the idea of 
founding an order of men who should spend 
their lives in preaching. Simultaneously, 
Francis, the son of a rich Italian merchant, 
was inspired with a design to establish a new 
order of men, who should spend their lives 
in preaching the Gospel and doing works of 
charity among the people. These two men 
met in Rome in the year 12 16 a.d., and some 
attempt was made to induce them to unite 
their institutions in one ; but Francis was 
unwilling, and the Pope sanctioned both. 
Both adopted the Augustinian rule, and both 
required not only that their followers personally should have no property, 
but also that they should not possess any property collectively as a body ; 
their followers were to work tor a livelihood, or to live on alms. The two 
orders retained something of the character of their founders : the Domi- 
nicans that of the learned, energetic, dogmatic, and stern controversialist; 
they were defenders of the orthodox faith, not only by argument, but by the 
terrors of the Inquisition, which was in their hands ; even as their master 

S. Dominic and S. Francis. 

The Dominicans and Franciscans. 


is. rightly or wrongly, said to have sanctioned the cruelties which were 
used against the Albigenses when his preaching had failed to convince 
them. The Franciscans retained something of the character of the pious, 
ardent, fanciful enthusiast from whom they took their name. 

Dominic gave to his order the name 
of Preaching Friars; more commonly 
they were styled Dominicans, or, from 
the colour of their habits, Black Friars* 
— their habit consisting of a white tunic, 
fastened with a white girdle, over that 
a white scapulary, and over all a black 
mantle and hood, and shoes; the lay 
brethren wore a black scapulary. 

The woodcut which we give on 
the preceding page of two friars, with 
their names, Dominic and Francis, 
inscribed over them, is taken from a 
representation in a MS. of the end of 
the thirteenth century (Sloan 346), of a 
legend of a vision of Dominic related 
in the " Legenda Aurea," in which the 
Virgin Mary is deprecating the wrath of 
Christ, about to destroy the world for its iniquity, and presenting to him 
Dominic and Francis, with a promise that they will convert the world from 
its wickedness. The next woodcut is from Hollar's print in the " Monas- 
ticon." An early fifteenth century illustration of a Dominican friar, in 
black mantle and brown hood over a white tunic, may be found on the last 
page of the Harleian MS., 1,527. A fine picture of St. Dominic, by 
Mario Zoppo (1471-98), in the National Gallery, shows the costume admi- 
rably ; he stands preaching, with book and rosary in his left hand. The 
Dominican nuns wore the same dress with a white veil. They had, accord- 
ing to the last edition of the " Monasticon," fifty-eight houses in England. 

A Dominican Friar. 

• In France, Jacobins. 


The Orders of Friars. 

The Franciscans were styled by their founder Fratri Minori — lesser 

brothers, Friars Minors ; they were more usually called Grey Friars, from 

the colour of their habits, or Cordeliers, from the knotted cord which 

formed their characteristic girdle. Their habit was originally a grey tunic 

with long loose sleeves (but not quite so loose as those of the Benedictines), 

a knotted cord for a girdle, and a black hood ; the feet always bare, or 

only protected by sandals. In the fifteenth century the colour of the 

habit was altered to a dark brown. The woodcut is from Hollar's print. 

A picture of St. Francis, by Felippino Lippi (1460 — 1505), in the National 

Gallery shows the costume very clearly. Piers Ploughman describes the 

irregular indulgences in habit worn by less 

strict members of the order : — 

" In cutting of his cope 
Is more cloth y-folden 
Than was in Frauncis' froc, 
When he them first made. 
And yet under that cope 
A coat hath he, furred 
With foyns or with fichews 
Or fur of beaver, 
And that is cut to the knee, 
And quaintly y-buttoned 
Lest any spiritual man 
Espie that guile. 
Fraunceys bad his brethren 
Barefoot to wenden. 
Now have they buckled shoon 
For blenying [blistering] of ther heels, 
And hosen in harde weather 
Y-hamled [tied] by the ancle." 

A beautiful little picture of St. Francis 
receiving the stigmata may be found in a 
Book of Offices of the end of the fourteenth 
century (Harl. 2,897, f. 407 v.). Another fifteenth-century picture of the same 
subject is in a Book of Hours (Harl. 5,328, f. 123). Some fine sixteenth- 
century authorities for Franciscan costumes are in the MS. life of St. Francis 
(Harl. 3,229, f. 26). The principal picture represents St. Bonaventura, a 
saint of the order, in a gorgeous cope over his brown frock and hood, seated 

A Franciscan Friar. 

The Ca7fnelites. 43 

writing in his cell ; through the open door is seen a corridor with doors 
opening off it to other cells. In the corners of the page are other pictures 
of St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Bernardine, and another saint, and St. 
Clare, foundress of the female order of Franciscans. A very good 
illumination of two Franciscans in grey frocks and hoods, girded with 
rope and barefooted, will be found in the MS. Add. 17,687 of date 1498. 
The Franciscan nuns, or Minoresses, or Poor Clares, as they were 
)metimes called, from St. Clare, the patron saint and first nun of 
le order, wore the same habit as the monks, only with a black veil 
instead of a hood. For another illustration of minoresses see MS. Royal 
1,696, f. in, v. The Franciscans were first introduced into England, 
at Canterbury, in the year 1223 A.D., and there were sixty-five houses of 
the order in England, besides four of minoresses. 

While the Dominicans retained their unity of organisation to the 
last, the Franciscans divided into several branches, under the names of 
Minorites, Capuchins, Minims, Observants, Recollets, &c 

The Carmelite Friars had their origin, as their name indicates, in the 
East. According to their own traditions, ever since the days of Elijah, 
whom they claim as their founder, the rocks of Carmel have been inhabited 
by a succession of hermits, who have lived after the pattern of the great 
prophet Their institution as an order of friars, however, dates from the 
beginning of the thirteenth century, when Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, 
gave them a rule, founded upon, but more severe than, that of St. Basil ; 
and gave them a habit of white and red stripes, which, according to 
tradition, was the fashion of the wonder-working mantle of their prophet- 
founder. The order immediately spread into the West, and Pope 
Honorius III. sanctioned it, and changed the habit to a white frock over 
a dark brown tunic ; and very soon after, the third general of the order, 
an Englishman, Simon Stock, added the scapulary, of the same colour as 
the tunic, by which they are to be distinguished from the Premonstratensian 
canons, whose habit is the same, except that it wants the scapulary. 
From the colour of the habit the popular English name for the Carmelites 
was the White Friars. Sir John de Vesci, an English crusader, in the 
early part of the thirteenth century, made the ascent of Mount Carmel, 


The Orders of Friars. 

and found these religious living there, claiming to be the successors of 
Elijah. The romantic incident seems to have interested him, and he 

brought back some of them to England, 
and thus introduced the order here, where 
it became more popular than elsewhere in 
Europe, but it was never an influential 
order. They had ultimately fifty houses in 

The Austin Friars were founded in 
the middle of the thirteenth century. 
There were still at that time some small 
communities which were not enrolled 
among any of the great recognised orders, 
and a great number of hermits and soli- 
taries, who lived under no rule at all. 
Pope Innocent IV. decreed that all these 
hermits, solitaries, and separate communi- 
ties, should be incorporated into a new 
order, under the rule of St. Augustine, with 
some stricter clauses added, under the 
name of Ermiti Augustini, Hermits of St. 
Augustine, or, as they were popularly called, Austin Friars. Their exterior 
habit was a black gown with broad sleeves, girded with a leather belt, and 
black cloth hood. There were forty-five houses of them in England. 

There were also some minor orders of friars, who do not need a detailed 
description. The Crutched (crossed) Friars, so called because they had 
a red cross on the back and breast of their blue habit, were introduced into 
England in the middle of the thirteenth century, and had ten houses here. 
The Friars de Pcenitentia, or the Friars of the Sack, were introduced a 
little lal3», and had nine houses. And there were six other friaries of 
obscure orders. But all these minor mendicant orders — all except the four 
great orders, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Carmelites — . 
were suppressed by the Council of Lyons, a.d. 1370. 

Chaucer lived in the latter half of the fourteenth century, when, after 

A Carmelite Friar. 

The Austin Friars, 45 

a hundred and forty years' existence, the orders of friars, or at least many 
individuals of the orders, had lost much of their primitive holiness and zeal. 
His avowed purpose is to satirise their abuses ; so that, while we quote 
him largely for the life-like pictures of ancient customs and manners 
which he gives us, we must make allowance for the exaggerations of a 
satirist, and especially we must not take the faulty or vicious individuals, 
whom it suits his purpose to depict, as fair samples of the whole class. 
We have a nineteenth-century satirist of the failings and foibles of the 
clergy, to whom future generations will turn for illustrations of the life of 
cathedral towns and country parishes. We know how wrongly they would 
suppose that Dr. Proudie was a fair sample of nineteenth-century bishops, 
or Dr. Grantley of archdeacons " of the period," or Mr. Smylie of the 
evangelical clergy ; we know there is no real bishop, archdeacon, or 
incumbent among us of whom those characters, so cleverly and amusingly, 
and in one sense so truthfully, drawn, are anything but exaggerated 
likenesses. With this caution, we do not hesitate to borrow illustrations of 
our subject from Chaucer and other contemporary writers. 

In his description of Friar Hubert, who was one of the Canterbury 
pilgrims, he tells us how — 

" Full well beloved and familiar was he 
With frankelins over all in his countrie ; 
And eke with worthy women of the town,* 
For he had power of confession, 
As said himself, more than a curate, 
For of his order he was licenciate. 
Full sweetely heard he confession, 
And pleasant was his absolution. 
He was an easy man to give penance 
There as he wist to have a good pittance, 
For unto a poor order for to give, 
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive. 

* * * • 

His tippet was aye farsedf full of knives 
And pinnes for to give to faire wives. 
And certainly he had a merry note, 
Well could he sing and playen on a rote.J 

• Wives of burgesses. f Stuffed. \ Musical instrument so called. 

46 The Orders of Friars, 

And over all there as profit should arise, 
Courteous he was, and lowly of service. 
There was no man no where so virtuous, 
He was the beste beggar in all his house, 
And gave a certain ferme for the grant 
None of his brethren came in his haunt." 

As to his costume : — 

For there was he not like a cloisterer, 
With threadbare cope, as is a poor scholar, 
But he was like a master or a pope, 
Of double worsted was his semi-cope,* 
That round was as a bell out of the press." 

In the Sompnour's tale the character, here merely sketched, is worked 

out in detail, and gives such a wonderfully life-like picture of a friar, and 

of his occupation, and his intercourse with the people, that we cannot do 

better than lay considerable extracts from it before our readers : — 

" Lordings there is in Yorkshire, as I guess, 
A marsh country y-called Holderness, 
In which there went a limitourf about 
To preach, and eke to beg, it is no doubt. 
And so befel that on a day this frere 
Had preached at a church in his mannere, 
And specially aboven every thing 
Excited he the people in his preaching 
To trentals,! and to give for Godd6's sake, 
Wherewith men mighten holy houses make, 
There as divine service is honoured, 
Not there as it is wasted and devoured.} 

* Piers Ploughman (creed 3, line 434), describing a burly Dominican friar, describe! 
his cloak or cope in the same terms, and describes the under gown, or kirtle. also :— 
" His cope that beclypped him 
Wei clean was it folden, 
Of double worsted y-dyght 
Down to the heel. 
His kirtle of clean white, 
Cleanly y-served, 
It was good enough ground 
Grain for to beren." 

t A limitour, as has been explained above, was a friar whose functions were limited 
to a certain district of country ; a lister might exercise his office wherever he listed. 
X Thirty masses for the repose of a deceased person. 
f Viz., in convents of friars, not in monasteries of monks and by the secular clergy. 

Chaucer's Dominican Friars. 


• Trentals,' said he, * deliver from penance 
Ther friendes' soules, as well old as young, 
Yea, when that they are speedily y-sung. 
Not for to hold a priest jolly and gay, 
He singeth not but one mass* of a day, 
Deliver out,' quoth he, ' anonf the souls. 
Full hard it is, with flesh-hook or with owle» 
To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake : 
Now speed you heartily, for Christ's sake.' 

And when this frere had said all his intent, 
"With qui cum patre% forth his way he went ; 
When folk in church had given him what they lest 
He went his way, no longer would he rest." 

Then he takes his way through the village with his brother friar (it 
seems to have been the rule for them to go in couples) and a servant after 
them to carry their sack, begging at every house. 

- With scrippe and tipped staff, y-tucked high, 
In every house he gan to pore and pry ; 
And begged meal or cheese, or elles corn. 
His fellow had a staff tipped with horn, 
A pair of tables all of ivory, 
And a pointel y-polished fetisly, 
And wrote always the names, as he stood, 
Of alle folk that gave them any good, 
As though that he woulde for them pray. 
• Give us a bushel of wheat, or malt, or rye, 
A Godde's kichel,§ or a trippe of cheese ; 
Or elles what you list, we may not chese ; | 
A Godde's halfpenny, or a mass penny, 
Or give us of your bran, if ye have any, 
A dagon If of your blanket, dear6 dame, 
Our sister dear (lo ! here I write your name) : 
Bacon or beef, or such thing as you find.' 
A sturdy harlot* * went them aye behind, 

* He was forbidden to say more. 

t A convent of friars used to undertake masses for the dead, and each friar saying one 
the whole number of masses was speedily completed, whereas a single priest saying his 
one mass a day would be very long completing the number, and meantime the souls were 
supposed to be in torment. 

% The usual way of concluding a sermon, in those days as in these, was with an ascrip- 
tion of praise, " Who with the Father," &c. 

? Cake. | Choose. 5 Slip or piece. •* Hired man. 

48 The Orders of Friars. 

That was their hostess man, and bare a sack, 
And what men gave them laid it on his back. 
And when that he was out at door, anon 
He planed away the names every one, 
That he before had written on his tables ; 
He served them with triffles* and with fables." 

At length he comes to a house in which, the goodwife being rfev$te y ha 
has been accustomed to be hospitably received : — 

" So along he went, from house to house, till he 
Came to a house where he was wont to be 
Refreshed more than in a hundred places. 
Sirk lay the husbandman whose that the place is ; 
Bedrid upon a couche low he lay : 
1 Deus hie,'' quoth he, 'O Thomas, friend, good day '* 
Said this frere, all courteously and soft. 

• Thomas,' quoth he, ' God yieldf it you, full eft 
Have I upon this bench fared full well, 

Here have I en ten many a merry meal.' 
Aiid from the bench he drove away the cat, 
And laid adown his potent J and his hat, 
And eke his scrip, and set himself adown : 
His fellow was y-walked into town 
Forth with his knave, into that hostlery 
Where as he shope him thilke" night to lie 
'O dere master,' quoth this sicke man, 
' How have ye fared since that March began? 
I saw you not this fourteen night and more.' 

' God wot,' quoth he, ' laboured have I full sore { 
And specially for thy solvation 
Have I sayd many a precious orison, 
And for our other friendes, God them bless. 
I have this day been at your church at messe, 
And said a sermon to my simple wit. 

* % * • 

And there I saw our dame. Ah ! where is she p * 

* Yonder I trow that in the yard she be,' 
Saide this man, ' and she will come- anon.' 

* Eh master, welcome be ye, by St. John ! ' 
Saide this wife ; ' how fare ye heartily ? ' 

This friar ariseth up full courteously, 
And her embraceth in his arm£s narwe,§ 
And kisseth her sweet, and chirketh as a sparrow 

* Trifles. t Requite. % Staff. { Closely. 

The Friars. 40 

With his lippes : ' Dame,' quoth he, ' right weli. 
As he that is your servant every deal.* 
Thanked be God that you gave soul and life, 
Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife 
In all the churche", God so save me. ' 

'Yea, God amende" defaults, sire,' quoth she: 
* Algates welcome be ye, by my fay.' 

• Graunt mercy, dame ; that have I found alway. 
But of your great goodness, by your leve, 
I wouldfi pray you that ye not you grieve, 
I will with Thomas speak a little throw ; 
These curates be so negligent and slow 
To searchen tenderly a conscience. 
In shrift, in preaching, is my diligence, 
And study, on Peter's words and on Paul's, 
I walk and fishen Christian menne's souls, 
To yield our Lord Jesu his proper rent ; 
To spread his word is set all mine intent.' 

•Now, by your faith, dere sir,' quoth she, 
■ Chide him well for Seinte Charitee. 
He is as angry as a pissemire,' " &c. 

Whereupon the friar begins at once to scold the goodman :— 

" ' O Thomas, je vous die, Thomas, Thomas, 
This maketh the fiend, this must be amended. 
Ire is a thing that high God hath defended.f 
And therefore will I speak a word or two.' 

' Now, master,' quoth the wife, ' ere that I go, 
What will ye dine ? I will go thereabout.' 

' Now, dame,' quoth he, 'je vous dis sans double, 
Have I not of a capon but the liver, 
And of your white bread but a shiver, 
And after that a roasted pigg6's head 
(But I ne would for me no beast were dead), 
Then had I with you homely sufnsance ; 
I am a man of little sustenance, 
My spirit hath his fostering in the Bible. 
My body is aye so ready and so penible 
To waken, that my stomach is destroyed. 
I pray you, dame, that ye be not annoyed, 
Though I so friendly you my counsel shew. 
By God ! I n'oldj have told it but a few.' 

• Part. f Forbidden. % Would not 


50 The Orders of Friars. 

' Now, sir,' quoth she, ' but one word ere I go. 
My child is dead within these weekgs two, 
Soon after that ye went out of this town.' * 

' His death saw I by revelation,' 
Said this frere, ' at home in our dortour.t 
I dare well say that ere that half an hour 
After his death, I saw him borne to blisse 
In mine vision, so God me wisse. 
So did our sexton and our fermerere,J 
That have been true" friars fifty year ; 
They may now, God be thanked of his loan, 
Make their jubilee and walke alone.' "§ 

We do not care to continue the blasphemous lies with which he plays 
upon the mother's tenderness for her dead babe. At length, addressing 
the sick goodman, he continues : — 

" • Thomas, Thomas, so might I ride or go, 
And by that lord that cleped is St. Ive, 
N'ere|| thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive, 
In our chapter pray we IT day and night 
To Christ that he thee send hele and might** 
Thy body for to welden hastily.' 

* God wot,' quoth he, ' I nothing thereof feel, 
So help me Christ, as I in fewe - years 
Have spended upon divers manner freres 
Full many a pound, yet fare I never the bet.' 

The frere answered, • O Thomas, dost thou so? 
What need have you diverse friars to seche ? 
What needeth him that hath a perfect leech ft 
To seeken other leches in the town ? 
Your inconstancy is your confusion. 
Hold ye then me, or elles our convent, 
To pray for you is insufficient ? 
Thomas, that jape is not worth a mite ; 
Your malady is for we have too lite. J J 

* The good man also said he had not seen the friar " this fourteen nights : " — Did a 
limitour go round once a fortnight ? 

f The dormitory of the convent. 

j Infirm arer. 

§ Aged monks and friars lived in the Infirmary, and had certain privileges. 

|| Wert thou not. 

% Implying, whether truly or not, that he had been enrolled in the fratemitv of the 
house, and was prayed for, with other benefactors, in chapter. 

•* Health and strength. ft Doctor. %% Little. 

The Friars, 


Ah ! give that convent half a quarter of oates ; 
And give that convent four and twenty groats ; 
And give that friar a penny and let him go ; 
Nay, nay, Thomas, it may nothing be so ; 
"VY hat is a farthing worth parted in twelve ? " 

id so he takes up the cue the wife had given him, and reads him a 
mg sennon on anger, quoting Seneca, and giving, for instances, Cambyses 
id Cyrus, and at length urges him to confession. To this — 

" 'Nay,' quoth the sick man, ' by Saint Simon, 
I have been shriven this day by my curate.' 

• Give me then of thy gold to make our cloister,' 

id again he proclaims the virtues and morals of his order. 

" 'For if ye lack our predication,* 
Then goth this world all to destruction. * 

For whoso from this world would us bereave, 
So God me save, Thomas, by your leave, 
He would bereave out of this world the sun,' &c. 

md so ends with the ever-recurring burden : — 

" ' Now, Thomas, help for Sainte Charitee.' 
This sicke man wax well nigh wood for ire.t 
He woulde that the freie had been a fire, 
"With his false dissimulation ;" 

id proceeds to play a practical joke upon him, which will not bear even 

inting at, but which sufficiendy shows that superstition did not prevent 

ien from taking great liberties, expressing the utmost contempt of these 

len. Moreover, — 

" His mennie which had hearden this affray, 
Came leaping in and chased out the frere." 

Thus ignominiously turned out of the goodman's house, the friar goes 
the court-house of the lord of the village : — 

" A sturdy pace down to the court he goth, 
Whereat there woned % a man of great honour, 
To whom this friar was alway confessour ; 
This worthy man was lord of that village. 

* Preaching ; he was probably a preaching friar- 
f Waxed nearly mad. £ Lived. 

Lfc, a Dominican. 

52 The Orders of Friars. 

This frere came, as he were in a rage, 
Whereas this lord sat eating at his board. 

* » » • 

This lord gan look, and saide, 'Benedicite ! 
What, frere John ! what manner of world is this ? 
I see well that something there is amiss.' " 

We need only complete the picture by adding the then actors in it : — 

" The lady of the house aye stille sat, 
Till she had herde what the friar said." 


" Now stood the lorde's squire at the board, 
That carved his meat, and hearde every word 
Of all the things of which I have you said." 

And it needs little help of the imagination to complete this con- 
temporary picture of an English fourteenth-century village, with its lord 
and its well-to-do farmer, and its villagers, its village inn, its parish church 
and priest, and the fortnightly visit of the itinerant friars. 

We have now completed our sketch of the rise of the religious orders, 
and of their general character ; we have only to conclude this portion of 
our task with a brief history of their suppression in England. Henry VIII. 
had resoved to break with the pope ; the religious orders were great 
upholders of the papal supremacy ; the friars especially were called ; ' the 
pope's militia ; " the king resolved, therefore, upon the destruction of 
the friars. The pretext was a reform of the religious orders. At the end 
of the year 1535 a royal commission undertook the visitation of all the 
religious houses, above one thousand three hundred in number, including 
their cells and hospitals. They performed their task with incredible 
celerity — " the king's command was exceeding urgent ; " and in ten weeks 
they presented their report. The small houses they reported to be full of 
irregularity and vice ; while " in the great solemne monasteries, thanks 
be to God, religion was right well observed and kept up." So the king's 
decree went forth, and parliament ratified it, that all the religious houses 
of less than ^200 annual value should be suppressed. This just caught 
all the friaries, and a few of the less powerful monasteries for the sake of 
impartiality. Perhaps the monks were not greatly moved at the destruc- 
tion which had come upon their rivals ; but their turn very speedily came. 

The Friars. 53 

They were not suppressed forcibly ; but they were induced to surrender. 
The patronage of most of the abbacies was in the king's hands, or under 
his control. He induced some of the abbots by threats or cajolery, and 
the offer of place and pension, to surrender their monasteries into his 
hand ; others he induced to surrender their abbatial offices only, into 
which he placed creatures of his own, who completed the surrender. 
Some few intractable abbots — like those of Reading, Glastonbury, and 
St. John's, Colchester, who would do neither one nor the other — were found 
guilty of high treason — no difficult matter when it had been made high 
treason by act of Parliament to " publish in words " that the king was an 
" heretic, schismatic, or tyrant " — and they were disposed of by hanging, 
drawing, and quartering. The Hospitallers of Clerkenwell were still more 
difficult to deal with, and required a special act of Parliament to suppress 
them. Those who gave no trouble were rewarded with bishoprics, livings, 
and pensions ; the rest were turned adrift on the wide world, to dig, or 
beg, or starve. We are not defending the principle of monasticism ; it 
may be that, with the altered circumstances of the church and nation, 
the day of usefulness of the monasteries had passed. But we cannot 
restrain an expression of indignation at the shameless, reckless manner 
of the suppression. The commissioners suggested, and Bishop Latimer 
entreated in vain, that two or three monasteries should be left in every 
shire for religious, and learned, and charitable uses ; they were all shared 
among the king and his courtiers. The magnificent churches were pulled 
down ; the libraries, of inestimable value, were destroyed j the alms which 
the monks gave to the poor, the hospitals which they maintained for the 
old and impotent, the infirmaries for the sick, the schools for the people 
— all went in the wreck ; and the tithes of parishes which were in the 
hands of the monasteries, were swallowed up indiscriminately — they were 
not men to strain at such gnats while they were swallowing camels — 
some three thousand parishes, including those of the most populous and 
important towns, were left impoverished to this day. No wonder that the 
fountains of religious endowment in England have been dried up ever 
since ; — and the course of modern legislation is not calculated to set them 
again a-fiowing. 



AVING thus given a sketch of the history of the various monastic 
orders in England, we proceed to give some account of the 
constitution of a convent, taking that of a Benedictine monastery 
as a type, from which the other orders departed only in minor particulars. 

The convent is the name especially appropriate to the body of indi- 
viduals who composed a religious community. These were the body 
of cloister monks, lay and clerical; the professed brethren, who were 
also lay and clerical ; the clerks ; the novices ; and the servants and 
artificers. The servants and artificers were of course taken from the lower 
ranks of society ; all the rest were originally of the most various degrees 
of rank and social position. We constantly meet with instances of noble 
men and women, knights and ladies, minstrels and merchants, quitting 
their secular occupations at various periods of their life, and taking the 
religious habit ; some of them continuing simply professed brethren, others 
rising to high offices in their order. Scions of noble houses were not 
infrequently entered at an early age as novices, either devoted to the 
religious life by the piety of their parents, or, with more worldly motives, 
thus provided with a calling and a maintenance ; and sometimes con- 
siderable interest was used to procure the admittance of novices into the 
great monasteries. Again, the children of the poor were received into the 
monastic schools, and such as showed peculiar aptitude were sometimes at 
length admitted as monks,* and were eligible, and were often chosen, to 
the highest ecclesiastical dignities. 

• " On the foundation," as we say now of colleges and endowed schools. 

The Convent. 55 

The whole convent was under the government of the abbot, who, how- 
ever, ?/as bound to govern according to the rule of the order. Sometimes 
he was elected by the convent ; sometimes the king or some patron 
had a share in the election. Frequently there were estates attached to 
the office, distinct from those of the convent ; sometimes the abbot had 
only an allowance out of the convent estates ; but always he had great 
power over the property of the convent, and bad abbots are frequently 
accused of wasting the property of the house, and enriching their relatives 
and friends out of it. The abbots of some of the more important houses 
were mitred abbots, and were summoned to Parliament. In the time of 
Henry VIII. twenty-four abbots and the prior of Coventry had seats in the 
House of Peers.* 

The abbot did not live in common with his monks ; he had a separate 
establishment of his own within the precincts of the house, sometimes over 
the entrance gate, called the Abbot's Lodgings.f He ate in his own hall, 
slept in his own chamber, had a chapel, or oratory, for his private devotions, 
and accommodation for a retinue of chaplains and servants. His duty 
was to set to his monks an example of observance of the rule, to keep 
them to its observance, to punish breaches of it, to attend the services in 
church when not hindered by his other duties, to preach on holy days to 
the people, to attend chapter and preach on the rule, to act as confessor 
to the monks. But an abbot was also involved in many secular duties ; 
there were manors of his own, and of the convent's, far and near, which 
required visiting; and these manors involved the abbot in all the numerous 

• " Maysters of divinite 
Her matynes to leve, 
And cherliche [richly] as a cheveteyn 
His chaumbre to holden, 
With chymene and chaple, 
And chosen whom him list, 
And served as a sovereyn, 
And as a lord sytten." 

Piers Ploughman, 1. 1,157. 
t Just as heads of colleges now have their Master's, or Provost's, or Principal's Lodpe. 
The constitution of our existing colleges will assist those who are acquainted with thena 
in understanding many points of monastic economy. 


The Orders of Friars, 

duties which the feudal system devolved upon a lord towards his tenants, 
and towards his feudal superior. The greater abbots were barons, and 
sometimes were thus involved in such duties as those of justices in eyre, 
military leaders of their vassals, peers of Parliament. Hospitality was 
one of the great monastic virtues. The usual regulation in convents was 
that the abbot should entertain all guests of gentle degree, while the 
convent entertained all others. This again found abundance of occupa- 
tion for my lord abbot in performing all 
the offices of a courteous host, which seems 
to have been done in a way becoming his 
character as a lord of wealth and dignity ; 
his table was bountifully spread, even if he 
chose to confine himself to pulse and 
water ; a band of wandering minstrels was 
always welcome to the abbofs hall to 
entertain his gentle and fair guests ; and 
his falconer could furnish a cast of hawks, 
and his forester a leash of hounds, and the 
lord abbot would not decline to ride by 
the river or into his manor parks to wit- 
ness and to share in the sport. In the 
Harl. MS. 1,527, at fol. 108 (?), is a 
picture of an abbot on horseback casting 
off a hawk from his fist. A pretty little 
illustration of this abbatial hospitality 
A Benedictine Abbot. occurs in Marie's " Lay of Ywonec." * A 

baron and his family are travelling in obedience to the royal summons, to 
keep one of the high festivals at Caerleon. In the course of their journey 
they stop for a night at a spacious abbey, where they are received with the 
greatest hospitality. " The good abbot, for the sake of detaining his guests 
during another day, exhibited to them the whole of the apartments, the 
dormitory, the refectory, and the chapter-house, in which last they beheld 

Ellis's "Early English Romances." 

The Convent. 


a splendid tomb covered with a superb pall fringed with gold, surrounded 
by twenty waxen tapers in golden candlesticks, while a vast silver censer, 
constandy burning, filled the air with fumes of incense." 

An abbot's ordinary habit was the same as that of his monks. In the 
processions which were made on certain great feasts he held his crosier, 
and, if he were a mitred abbot, he wore his mitre : this was also his parlia- 
mentary costume. We give on the opposite page a beautiful drawing of a 
Benedictine abbot of St. Alban's, thus habited, from the Catalogus Benefac- 
torttm of that abbey. When the abbot celebrated high mass on certain great 
festivals he wore the full episcopal costume. Thomas Delamere, abbot 
of St. Alban's, is so represented in his magnificent sepulchral brass in that 
abbey, executed in his lifetime, circa 1375 a.d. Richard Bewferest, abbot 
of the Augustine canons of Dorchester, Oxfordshire, has a brass in that 

Benedictine Abbess and Nun. 

church, date circa 1520 a.d., representing him in episcopal costume, bare- 
headed, with his staff; and in the same church is an incised gravestone, 
representing Abbot Roger, circa 15 10 a.d., in full episcopal vestments. 
Abbesses bore the crosier in addition to the ordinary costume of their 
order; the sepulchral brass of Elizabeth Harvey, abbess of the Benedictine 
Abbey of Elstow, Bedfordshire, circa 1530 A.D., thus represents her, in the 

58 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

church of that place. Our representation of a Benedictine abbess on the 
previous page is from the fourteenth century MS. Royal, 2 B. vii. 

Under the abbot were a number of officials {obedientiarii), the chief of 
whom were the Prior, Precentor, Cellarer, Sacrist, Hospitaller, Infirmarer, 
Almoner, Master of the Novices, Porter, Kitchener, Seneschal, &c. It 
was only in large monasteries that all these officers were to be found ; in 
the smaller houses one monk would perform the duties of several offices. 
The officers seem to have been elected by the convent, subject to the 
approval of the abbot, by whom they might be deposed. Some brief notes 
of the duties of these obedientiaries will serve to give a considerable 
insight into the economy of a convent. And first for the Prior : — 

In some orders there was only one abbey, and all the other houses were 
priories, as in the Clugniac, the Gilbertine, and in the Military and the 
Mendicant orders. In all the orders there were abbeys, which had had 
distant estates granted to them, on which either the donor had built a 
house, and made it subject to the abbey; or the abbey had built a house 
for the management of the estates, and the celebration of divine and 
charitable offices upon them. These priories varied in size, from a mere 
cell containing a prior and two monks, to an establishment as large as an 
abbey ; and the dignity and power of the prior varied from that of a mere 
steward of the distant estate of the parent house, to that of an autocratic 
head, only nominally dependent on the parent house, and himself in every- 
thing but name an abbot. 

The majority of the female houses of the various orders (except those 
which were especially female orders, like the Brigittines, &c.) were kept 
subject to some monastery, so that the superiors of these houses usually 
bore only the title of prioress, though they had the power of an abbess in 
the internal discipline of the house. One cannot forbear to quote at least 
a portion of Chaucer's very beautiful description of his prioress, among the 
Canterbury pilgrims : — 

** That of her smiling ful simple was and coy." 

She sang the divine service sweetly ; she spoke French correctly, though 
with an accent which savoured of the Benedictine convent at Stratford-le- 

The Convent. 59 

Bow, where she had been educated, rather than of Paris ; she behaved 
with lady-like delicacy at table ; she was cheerful of mood, and amiable ; 
with a pretty affectation of courtly breeding, and a care to exhibit a 
reverend stateliness becoming her office : — 

" But for to speken of her conscience, 
She was so charitable and so piteous, 
She would wepe if that she saw a mouse 
Caught in a trappe, if it were dead or bled ; 
Of smale" houndes had she that she fed 
With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel bread ; 
But sore wept she if one of them were dead, 
Or if men smote it with a yerde smerte ; 
And all was conscience and tendre herte. 
Ful semely her wimple y-pinched was ; 
Her nose tretis,* her eyen grey as glass, 
Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red, 
And sickerly she had a fayre forehed — 
It was almost a spanne" broad I trow, 
And hardily she was not undergrow."f 

Her habit was becoming ; her beads were of red coral gauded with green, 
to which was hung a jewel of gold, on which was — 

" Written a crowned A, 
And after, Amor vincit omnia. 
Another nun also with her had she, 
That was her chapelleine, and priestes three." 

But in abbeys the chief of the obedientiaries was styled prior ; and we 
cannot, perhaps, give a better idea of his functions than by borrowing a 
naval analogy, and calling him the abbot's first lieutenant ; for, like that 
officer in a ship, the prior at all times carried on the internal discipline of 
the convent, and in the abbot's absence he was his vicegerent ; wielding all 
the abbot's powers, except those of making or deposing obedientiaries and 
consecrating novices. He had a suite of apartments of his own, called the 
prior's chamber, or the prior's lodging ; he could leave the house for a day 
or two on the business of the house, and had horses and servants appro- 
priated to his use ; whenever he entered the monks present rose out of 

* Long and well proportioned. 
f She was of tall stature. 


The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

respect ; some little license in diet was allowed him in refectory, and he 
might also have refreshment in his own apartments ; sometimes he enter- 
tained guests of a certain condition in his prior's chamber. Neither the 
prior, nor any of the obedientiaries, wore any distinctive dress or badge 
of office. In large convents he was assisted by a sub-prior. 

The Sub-prior was the prior's deputy, sharing his duties in his residence, 
and fulfilling them in his absences. The especial functions appropriated 
to him seem to have been to say grace at dinner and supper, to see that 
all the doors were locked at five in the evening, and keep the keys until 
five next morning; and, by sleeping near the dormitory door, and by 
making private search, to prevent wandering about at night. In large 
monasteries there were additional sub-priors. 

The Chantor, or Precentor, appears to come next in order and dignity, 
since we are told that he was censed after the abbot and prior. He was 
choir-master ; taught music to the monks and novices ; and arranged and 
ruled everything which related to the conduct of divine service. His place 

in church was in the middle of the choir on 
the right side ; he held an instrument in his 
hand, as modern leaders use a baton ; and 
his side of the choir commenced the chant. 
He was besides librarian, and keeper of the 
archives, and keeper of the abbey seal. 

He was assisted by a Succentor, who sat on 
the left side of the choir, and led that half of 
the choir in service. He assisted the chantor, 
and in his absence undertook his duties. 

The Cellarer was in fact the steward of the 
house; his modern representative is the 
bursar of a college. He had the care of 
everything relating to the provision of the 
food and vessels of the convent. He was 
exempt from the observance of some of the 
services in church; he had the use of 
horses and servants for the fulfilment of his duties, and sometimes he 

The Convent, 61 

appears to have had separate apartments. The cellarer, as we have said, 
wore no distinctive dress or badge; but in the Catalogus Benefactorum 
of St Alban's there occurs a portrait of one " Adam Cellarius," who for 
his distinguished merit had been buried among the abbots in the chapter- 
house, and had his name and effigy recorded in the Catalogus ; he is 
holding two keys in one hand and a purse in the other, the symbols of his 
office ; and in his quaint features — so different from those of the dignified 
abbot whom we have given from the same book — the limner seems to 
have given us the type of a business-like and not ungenial cellarer. 

The Sacrist, or Sacristan (whence our word sexton), had the care and 
charge of the fabric, and furniture, and ornaments of the church, and 
generally of all the material appliances of divine service. He, or some 
one in his stead, slept in a chamber built for him in the church, in order 
to protect it during the night. There is such a chamber in St. Alban's 
Abbey Church, engraved in the Builder for August, 1856. There was 
often a sub-sacrist to assist the sacrist in his duties. 

The duty of the Hospitaller was, as his name implies, to perform the 
duties of hospitality on behalf of the convent The monasteries received 
all travellers to food and lodging for a day and a night as of right, and for 
a longer period if the prior saw reason to grant it* A special hall was 
provided for the entertainment of these guests, and chambers for their 
accommodation. The hospitaller performed the part of host on behalf of 
the convent, saw to the accommodation of the guests who belonged to the 
convent, introduced into the refectory strange priests or others who desired 
and had leave to dine there, and ushered guests of degree to the abbot to 
be entertained by him. He showed the church and house at suitable 
times to guests whose curiosity prompted the desire. 

Every abbey had an infirmary, which was usually a detached building 
with its own kitchen and chapel, besides suitable apartments for the sick, 

• " And as touching the aim esse that they (the monks) delt, and the hospitality that 
they kept, every man knoweth that many thousands were well received of them, and 
might have been better, if they had not so many great men's horse to fede, and had not 

bin overcharged with such idle gendemen as were never out of the abaies (abbeys)." A 

complaint made to Parliatnent not long after the dissolution, quoted in Coke's Institutes. 

62 The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

and for aged monks, who sometimes took up their permanent residence in 
the infirmary, and were excused irksome duties, and allowed indulgences 
in food and social intercourse. Not only the sick monks, but other sick 
folk were received into the infirmary ; it is a very common incident in 
mediaeval romances to find a wounded knight carried to a neighbouring 
monastery to be healed. The officer who had charge of everything 
relating to this department was styled the Infirmarer. He slept in the 
infirmary, was excused from some of the "hours;" in the great houses had 
two brethren to assist him besides the necessary servants, and often a 
clerk learned in pharmacy as physician. 

The Almoner had charge of the distribution of the alms of the house. 
Sometimes money was left by benefactors to be distributed to the poor 
annually at their obits ; the distribution of this was confided to the 
almoner. One of his men attended in the abbot's chamber when he had 
guests, to receive what alms they chose to give to the poor. Moneys 
belonging to the convent were also devoted to this purpose ; besides food 
and drink, the surplus of the convent meals. He had assistants allowed 
him to go and visit the sick and infirm folk of the neighbourhood. And at 
Christmas he provided cloth and shoes for widows, orphans, poor clerks, 
and others whom he thought to need it most. 

The Master of the Novices was a grave and learned monk, who superin- 
tended the education of the youths in the schools of the abbey, and 
taught the rule to those who were candidates for the monastic profession. 

The Porter was an officer of some importance ; he was chosen for his 
age and gravity; he had an apartment in the gate lodge, an assistant, and a 
lad to run on his messages. But sometimes the porter seems to have been 
a layman. And, in small houses and in nunneries, his office involved other 
duties, which we have seen in great abbeys distributed among a number of 
officials. Thus, in Marie's " Lay le Fraine," we read of the porter of an 
abbey of nuns : — 

" The porter of the abbey arose, 
And did his office in the close ; 
Rung the bells, and tapers light, 
Laid forth books and all ready dighL 
The church door he undid," &c; 

The Convent. 


and in the sequel it appears that he had a daughter, and therefore in all 
probability was a layman. 

The Kitchener, or Cook, was usually a monk, and, as his name implies, 
he ruled in the kitchen, went to market, provided the meals of the 
house, &c. 

The Seneschal in great abbeys was often a layman of rank, who did 
the secular business which the tenure of large estates, and consequently 
of secular offices, devolved upon abbots and convents; such as hold- 
ing manorial courts, and the like. But there was, Fosbroke tells us, 
another officer with the same name, but of inferior dignity, who did 

Alan Middleton. 

convent business of the prior and cellarer which was to be done out 
)f the house ; and, when at home, carried a rod and acted as marshal 
)f the guest-hall. He had horses and servants allowed for the duties of 

office ; and at the Benedictine Abbey of Winchcombe he had a robe 
of clerk's cloth once a year, with lamb's fur for a supertunic, and foi 
a hood of budge fur ; he had the same commons in hall as the cellarer, 
and £2 every year at Michaelmas. Probably an officer of this kind was 

r Middleton, who is recorded in the Catalogus of St. Alban's as 


The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

'collector of rents of the obedientiaries of that monastery, and especially 
of those of the bursar." Prudenter in omnibus se agebat, and so, deserving 
(veil of the house, they put a portrait of him among their benefactors, 
clothed in a blue robe, of " clerk's cloth" perhaps, furred at the wrists and 
throat with " lamb's fur" or " budge fur ;" a small tonsure shows that he had 
taken some minor order, the penner and inkhorn at his girdle denote the 
nature of his office ; and he is just opening the door of one of the abbey 
tenants to perform his unwelcome function. They were grateful men, these 
Benedictines of St. Alban's ; they have immortalised another of their inferior 


O o o o ^ 

J[ O o 

o o 

° o 

^w| / -u\ 



LI i[ 

p ° 


1 ° 




o o r -> G 

o o < 

> o o 

Walter of Hamuntesham attacked by a Mob. 

officers, Walterus de Hamuntesham, fidelis minister hujus ecclesice, because 
on one occasion he received a beating at the hands of the rabble of St. 
Alban's — inter vittanos Set Albani — while standing up for the rights and 
liberties of the church. 

Next in dignity after the obedientiaries come the Cloister Monks ; of 
these some had received holy orders at the hands of the bishop, some not. 
Their number was limited. A cloister monk in a rich abbey seems to have 
been something like in dignity to the fellow of a modern college, and a 

The Convent. 65 

good deal of interest was sometimes employed to obtain the admission of 
a youth as a novice, with a view to his ultimately arriving at this dignified 
degree. Next in order come the Professed Brethren. These seem to be 
monks who had not been elected to the dignity of cloister monks ; some 
of them were admitted late in life. Those monks who had been brought 
up in the house were called nutriti, those who came later in life conversi ; 
the lay brothers were also sometimes called conversi. There were again 
the Novices, who were not all necessarily young, for a conversus passed 
through a noviciate ; and even a monk of another order, or of another 
house of their own order, and even a monk from a cell of their own house, 
was reckoned among the novices. There were also the Chaplains of the 
abbot and other high officials ; and frequently there were other clerics 
living in the monastery, who served the chantries in the abbey church, and 
the churches and chapels which belonged to the monastery and were in its 
neighbourhood. Again, there were the Artificers and Servants of the 
monastery : millers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, smiths, and similar arti- 
ficers, were often a part of a monastic establishment. And there were 
numerous men-servants, grooms, and the like : these were all under 
certain vows, and were kept under discipline. In the Cistercian abbey 
of Waverley there were in 1187 a.d. seventy monks and one hundred and 
twenty conversi, besides priests, clerks, servants, &c. In the great Bene- 
dictine abbey of St. Edmund's Bury, in the time of Edward I., there 
were eighty monks ; fifteen chaplains attendant on the abbot and chief 
officers ; about one hundred and eleven servants in the various offices, 
chiefly residing within the walls of the monastery; forty priests, offici- 
ating in the several chapels, chantries, and monastic appendages in the 
town ; and an indefinite number of professed brethren. The following notes 
will give an idea of the occupations of the servants. In the time of 
William Rufus the servants at Evesham numbered — five in the church, 
two in the infirmary, two in the cellar, five in the kitchen, seven in 
the bakehouse, four brewers, four menders, two in the bath, two shoe- 
makers, two in the orchard, three gardeners, one at the cloister gate, two 
at the great gate, five at the vineyard, four who served the monks when 
they went out, four fishermen, four in the abbot's chamber, three in the 


66 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

hall. At Salley Abbey, at the end of the fourteenth century, there were 
about thirty-five servants, among whom are mentioned the shoemaker and 
barber, the prior's chamberlain, the abbot's cook, the convent cook and 
baker's mate, the baker, brewers, tailor, cowherd, waggoners, pages of the 
kitchen, poultry-keeper, labourers, a keeper of animals and birds, bailiffs, 
foresters, shepherds, smiths : there are others mentioned by name, without 
a note of their office. But it was only a few of the larger houses 
which had such numerous establishments as these ; the majority of the 
monasteries contained from five to twenty cloister monks. Some of the 
monasteries were famous as places of education, and we must add to their 
establishment a number of children of good family, and the learned clerks 
or ladies who acted as tutors ; thus the abbey of St. Mary, Winchester, in 
1536, contained twenty-six nuns, five priests, thirteen lay sisters, thirty-two 
officers and servants, and twenty-six children, daughters of lords and 
knights, who were brought up in the house. 

Lastly, there were a number of persons of all ranks and conditions who 
were admitted to " fraternity." Among the Hospitallers (and probably it 
was the same with the other orders) they took oath to love the house and 
brethren, to defend the house from ill-doers, to enter that house if they 
did enter any, and to make an annual present to the house. In return, 
they were enrolled in the register of the house, they received the prayers 
of the brethren, and at death were buried in the cemetery. Chaucer's 
Dominican friar (p. 48), writes the names of those who gave him donations 
in his " tables." In the following extract from Piers Ploughman's Creed, 
an Austin friar promises more definitely to have his donors enrolled in the 
fraternity of his house : — 

" And gyf thou hast any good, 
And will thyself helpen, 
Help us herblich therewith. 
And here I undertake, 
Thou shalt ben brother of oure hous, 
And a book habben, 
At the next chapetre, 
Clerliche enseled. 
And then our provincial 
Kath power to assoylen 

Tne Convent. 


Alle sustren and brethren 
That beth of our ordre." 

Piers Ploughman's Creed, p. 645. 

the book of St. Alban's, which we have before quoted, there is a list of 

lany persons, knights and merchants, ladies and children, vicars and 

actors, received ad fraternitatem hujus monasterii. In many cases por- 

lits of them are given : they are in the ordinary costume of their time 

id class, without any badge of their monastic fraternisation. 

Chaucer gives several sketches which enable us to fill out our realisation 

}f the monks, as they appeared outside the cloister associating with their 

-men. He includes one among the merry company of his Canterbury 

is ; and first in the Monk's Prologue, makes the Host address the 

>nk thus : — ■ 

" ' My lord, the monk,' quod he ... « 
' By my trothe I can not tell youre name, 
Whether shall I call you my Lord Dan Jobs, 
Or Dan Thomas, or elles Dan Albon ? 
Of what house be ye by your father kin ? 
I vow to God thou hast a full fair skin ; 
It is a gentle pasture ther thou goest, 
Thou art not like a penaunt* or a ghost. 
Upon my faith thou art some officer, 
°ome worthy sextem or some celerer. 
For by my father's soul, as to my dome, 
Thou art a maister when thou art at home ; 
No poure cloisterer, ne non novice, 
But a governor both ware and wise.' " 

Chaucer himself describes the same monk in his Prologue thus :— 

" A monk there was, a fayre for the maisterie, 
An out-rider that lovered venerie,t 
A manly man to be an abbot able. 
Ful many a dainty horse had he in stable ; 
And when he rode men might his bridle hear 
Gingling in a whistling wind as clear, 
And eke as loud as doth the chapel bell, 
Whereas this lord was keeper of the cell. 
The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet, 
Because that it was old and somedeal strait, 

• A person doing penance. 

t Hunting. 

68 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

This illce monk let olde thinges pace, 

And held after the newe world the trace. 

He gave not of the text a pulled hen, 

That saith, that hunters been not holy men ; 

Ne that a monk, when he is regneless,* 

Is like a fish that is waterless ; 

That is to say, a monk out of his cloister: 

This ilke text he held not worth an oyster. 

And I say his pinion was good. 

Why should he study, and make himselven wood, 

Upon a book in cloister alway to pore, 

Or swinkin with his handis, and labour, 

As Austin bid ? How shall the world be served ? 

Therefore he was a prickasoure aright : 

Greyhounds he had as swift as fowls of flight ; 

Of pricking and of hunting for the hare 

Was all his lust, for no cost would he spare. 

I saw his sleeves purfled at the hand 

With gris, and that the finest of the land. 

And for to fasten his hood under his chin 

He had of gold y-wrought a curious pin : 

A love-knot in the greater end there was. 

* * * * 

His bootis Bupple, his horse in great estate ; 
Now certainly he was a fair prelate." 

Again, in the " Shipman's Tale " we learn that such an officer had con- 
siderable freedom, so that he was able to pay very frequent visits to his 
friends. The whole passage is worth giving : — 

" A marchant whilom dwelled at St. Denise, 
That riche was, for which men held him wise. 

• * * * 

This noble marchant held a worthy house, 
For which he had all day so great repair 
For his largesse, and for his wife was fair. 
What wonder is ? but hearken to my tale. 
Amonges all these guestes great and small 
There was a monk, a fair man and a bold, 
I trow a thirty winters he was old, 
That ever anon was drawing to that place. 
This younge monk that was so fair of face, 

* Without state. 

The Convent. 69 

Acquainted was so with this good6 man, 
Sithen that their firste knowledge began, 
That in his house as familiar was he 
As it possible is any friend to be. 
And for as mochel as this good6 man, 
And eke this monk, of which that I begaa, 
Were bothe" two y-born in one village, 
The monk him claimeth as for cosinage ; 
And he again him said not ones nay, 
But was as glad thereof, as fowl of day ; 
For to his heart it was a great plesaunce ; 
Thus ben they knit with eteme alliance, 
And eche of them gan other for to ensure 
Of brotherhood, while that life may endure." 

Notwithstanding his vow of poverty, he was also able to make presents 
to his friends, for the tale continues : — 

*' Free was Dan John, and namely of despence 
As in that house, and full of diligence 
To don plesaunce, and also great costage ; 
He not forgat to give the leaste page 
In all that house, but, after their degree, 
He gave the lord, and sithen his mennie, 
When that he came, some manner honest thing ; 
For which they were as glad of his coming 
As fowl is fain when that the sun upriseth." 

Chaucer does not forget to let us know how it was that this monk came 
to have such liberty and such command of means : — 

" This noble monk, of which I you devise, 
Hath of his abbot, as him list, licence 
(Because he was a man of high prudence, 
And eke an officer), out for to ride 
To see their granges and their barnes wiae." 



E proceed next to give some account of the buildings which com- 
pose the fabric of a monastery. And first as to the site. The 
orders of the Benedictine family preferred sites as secluded and 
remote from towns and villages as possible. The Augustinian orders did 
not cultivate seclusion so strictly ; their houses are not unfrequently near 
towns and villages, and sometimes a portion of their conventual church — the 
nave, generally — formed the parish church. The Friaries, Colleges of secular 
canons, and Hospitals, were generally in or near the towns. There is a 
popular idea that the monks chose out the most beautiful and fertile spots 
in the kingdom for their abodes. A little reflection would show that the 
choice of the site of a new monastery must be confined within the limits of 
the lands which the founder was pleased to bestow upon the convent. 
Sometimes the founder gave a good manor, and gave money besides, to help 
to build the house upon it ; sometimes what was given was a tract of unre- 
claimed land, upon which the first handful of monks squatted like settlers in a 
new country. Even the settled land, in those days, was only half cultivated ; 
and on good land, unreclaimed or only half reclaimed, the skill and energy 
of a company of first-rate farmers would soon produce great results ; barren 
commons would be dotted over with sheep, and rushy valleys would 
become rich pastures covered with cattle, and great clearings in the forest 
would grow green with rye and barley. The revenues of the monastic 
estates would rapidly augment; little of them would be required for 
the coarse dress and frugal fare of the monks ; they did not, like the lay 
landowners, spend them on gilded armour and jewelled robes, and troops 

The Monastery. 7 1 

of armed retainers, and tournaments, and journeys to court; and so they 
had enough for plentiful charity and unrestricted hospitality, and the sur- 
plus they spent upon those magnificent buildings whose very ruins are 
among the architectural glories of the land. The Cistercians had an espe- 
cial rule that their houses should be built on the lowest possible sites, in 
token of humility ; but it was the general custom in the Middle Ages to 
choose low and sheltered sites for houses which were not especially 
intended as strongholds, and therefore it is that we find nearly all monas- 
teries in sheltered spots. To the monks the neighbourhood of a stream 
was of especial importance : when headed up it supplied a pond for their 
fish, and water-power for their corn-mill. If, therefore, there were within 
the limits of their domain a quiet valley with a rivulet running through it, 
that was the site which the monks would select for their house. And here, 
beside the rivulet, in the midst of the green pasture land of the valley 
dotted with sheep and kine, shut in from the world by the hills, whose 
tops were fringed with the forest which stretched for miles around, the 
stately buildings of the monastery would rise year after year ; the cloister 
court, and the great church, and the abbot's lodge, and the numerous 
offices, all surrounded by a stone wall with a stately gate-tower, like a 
goodly walled town, and a suburban hamlet of labourers' and servants' 
cottages sheltering beneath its walls. 

There was a certain plan for the arrangement of the principal buildings 
of a monastery, which, with minor variations, was followed by nearly 
all the monastic orders, except the Carthusians. These latter differed 
from the other orders in this, that each monk had his separate cell, in 
which he lived, and ate, and slept apart from the rest, the whole commu- 
nity meeting only in church and chapter.* Our limits will not permit us 
to enter into exceptional arrangements. 

* A plan of the Chartreuse of Clermont is given by Viollet le Due (Diet, of Architec., 
vol. i. pp. 308, 309), and the arrangements of a Carthusian monastery were nearly the same 
in all parts of Europe. It consists of a cloister-court surrounded by about twenty square 
enclosures. Each enclosure, technically called a " cell," is in fact a little house and 
garden, the little house is in a corner of the enclosure, and consists of three apartments. 
In the middle of the west side of the cloister-court is the oratory, whose five-sided apsidal 
sanctuary projects into the court. In a small outer court on the west is the prior's 

72 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

The nucleus of a monastery was the cloister court. It was a quadran- 
gular space of green sward, around which were arranged the cloister build- 
ings, viz., the church, the chapter-house, the refectory, and the dormitory.* 
The court was called the Paradise — the blessed garden in which the 
inmates passed their lives of holy peace. A porter was often placed at 
the cloister-gate, and the monks might not quit its seclusion, nor strangers 
enter to disturb its quiet, save under exceptional circumstances. 

The cloister-court had generally, though it is doubtful whether it was 
always the case, a covered ambulatory round its four sides. The ambula- 
tories of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries have usually an open arcade 
on the side facing the court, which supports the groined roof. In the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, instead of an open arcade, we usually 
find a series of large traceried windows, tolerably close together ; in many 
cases they were glazed, sometimes with painted glass, and formed doubt- 
less a grand series of scriptural or historical paintings. The blank wall 
opposite was also sometimes painted. This covered ambulatory was not 
merely a promenade for the monks ; it was the place in which the convent 
assembled regularly every day, at certain hours, for study and meditation ; 
and in some instances (eg., at Durham) a portion of it was fitted up with 
little wooden closets for studies for the elder monks, with book-cupboards 
in the wall opposite for books. The monks were sometimes buried in 
the cloister, either under the turf in the open square, or beneath the pave- 
ment of the ambulatory. There was sometimes a fountain at the corner of 
the cloister, or on its south side near the entrance to the refectory, at 
which the monks washed before meals. 

lodgings, which is a "cell "like the others, and a building for the entertainment of 
guests. See also a paper on the Carthusian priory of Mount Grace, near Thirsk, read 
by Archdeacon Churton before the Yorkshire Architectural Society, in the year 1850. 

* A bird's-eye view of Citeaux, given in Viollet le Due's " Dictionary of Architecture," 
vol. i. p. 271, will give a very good notion of a thirteenth-century monastery. Of the 
English monasteries Fountains was perhaps one of the finest, and its existing remains are 
the most extensive of any which are left in England. A plan of it will be found in Mr. 
"Walbran's " Guide to Ripon." See also plan of Furness, Journal of the Archaological 
A ■isociation, vi. 309 ; of Newstead (an Augustinian house), ibid. ix. p. 30 ; and of Durham 
(Benedictine), ibid. xxii. 201. 

The Minster Church. 73 

The church was always the principal building of a monastery. Many of 
them remain entire, though despoiled of their shrines, and tombs, and altars, 
and costly furniture, and many more remain in ruins, and they fill us with 
astonishment at their magnitude and splendour. Our existing cathedrals 
were, in fact, abbey churches ; nine or ten of them were the churches of 
Benedictine monasteries, the remainder of secular Augustines. But these, 
the reader may imagine, had the wealth of bishops and the offerings of 
dioceses lavished upon them, and may not be therefore fair examples of 
ordinary abbey churches. But some of them originally were ordinary 
abbey churches, and were subsequently made Episcopal sees, such as 
Beverley, Gloucester, Christ Church Oxford, and Peterborough, which 
were originally Benedictine abbey churches ; Bristol was the church of 
a house of regular canons ; Ripon was the church of a college of secular 
canons. The Benedictine churches of Westminster and St. Alban's, and 
the collegiate church of Southwell, are equal in magnitude and splendour 
to any of the cathedrals ; and the ruins of Fountains, and Tintem, and 
Netley, show that the Cistercians equalled any of the other orders in the 
magnitude and beauty of their churches. 

It is indeed hard to conceive that communities of a score or two of 
monks should have built such edifices as Westminster and Southwell as 
private chapels attached to their monasteries. And this, though it is one 
aspect of the fact, is not the true one. They did not build them for 
private chapels to say their daily prayers in ; they built them for temples 
in which they believed that the Eternal and Almighty condescended to 
dwell; to whose contemplation and worship they devoted their lives. 
They did not think of the church as an appendage to their monastery, 
but of their monastery as an appendage to the church. The cloister, 
under the shadow and protection of the church, was the court of the 
Temple, in which its priests and Levites dwelt. 

The church of a monastery was almost always a cross church, with 
a nave and aisles; a central tower (in Cistercian churches the tower 
was only to rise one story above the roof) ; transepts, which usually have 
three chapels on the north side of each transept, or an aisle divided into 
three chapels by parclose screens ; a choir with or without aisles ; a 


The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

retro-choir or presbytery ; and often a Lady chapel, east of the presbytery, 
or in some instances parallel with the choir. 

The entrance for the monks was usually on the south side opposite to the 
eastern alley of the cloisters ; there was also in Cistercian churches, and in 
some others, a newel stair in the south transept, by means of which ike monks 
could descend from their dormitory (which was in the upper story of the 
east side of the cloister court) into the church for the night services, without 
going into the open air. The principal entrance for the laity was on the 
north side, and was usually provided with a porch. The great western 

A Semi-choir of Franciscan Friars. 
entrance was chiefly used for processions ; the great entrance gate in the 
enclosure wall of the abbey being usually opposite to it or nearly so. In 
several instances stones have been found, set in the pavements of the 
naves of conventual churches, to mark the places where the different 
members of the convent were to stand before they issued forth in pro- 
cession, amidst the tolling of the great bell, with cross and banner, and 
chanted psalms, to meet the abbot at the abbey-gate, on his return from 
an absence, or any person to whom it was fitting that the convent should 
show such honour. 

The Minster Church, 


The internal arrangements of an abbey-church were very nearly like 
those of our cathedrals. The convent occupied the stalls in the choir; 
the place of the abbot was in the first stall on the right-hand (south) side 
to one entering from the west — it is still appropriated to the dean in cathe- 
drals; in the corresponding stall on the other side sat the prior; the 
precentor sat in the middle stall on the right or south side ; the succentor 
in the middle stall on the north side. 

The beautiful little picture of a semi-choir of Franciscan friars on the 
opposite page is from a fourteenth -century psalter in the British Museum 
(Domitian, A. 17). It is from a large picture, which gives a beautiful 

A Semi-choir of Minor esses. 

representation of the interior of the choir of the church. The picture 
is worth careful examination for the costume of the friars — grey frock 
and cowl, with knotted cord girdle and sandalled feet; some wearing 
the hood drawn over the head, some leaving it thrown back on the neck 
and shoulders; one with his hands folded under his sleeves like the 
Cistercians at p. 17. The precentor may be easily distinguished in the 
middle stall beating time, with an air of leadership. There is much character 
in all the faces and attitudes — e.g., in the withered old face on the left, with 
his cowl pulled over his ears to keep off the draughts, or the one on the 

76 The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

precentor's left, a rather burly friar, evidently singing bass.* On the next 
page is an engraving from the same MS. of a similar semi-choir of 
minoresses, which also is only a portion of a large church interior. 

When there was a shrine of a noted saintf it was placed in the presby- 
tery, behind the high-altar ; and here, and in the choir aisles, were fre- 
quently placed the monuments of the abbots, and of founders and distin 
guished benefactors of the house ; sometimes heads of the house and 
founders were buried in the chapter-house. 

It would require a more elaborate description than our plan will admit 
to endeavour to bring before the mind's-eye of the reader one of these abbey 
churches before its spoliation ; — when the sculptures were unmutilated and 
the paintings fresh, and the windows filled with their stained glass, and 
the choir hung with hangings, and banners and tapestries waved from 
the arches of the triforium, and the altar shone gloriously with jewelled 
plate, and the monuments^ of abbots and nobles were still perfect, and the 
wax tapers burned night and day§ in the hearses, throwing a flickering light 
on the solemn effigies below, and glancing upon the tarnished armour and 

* A double choir of the fifteenth century is in King Renews Book of Hours (Egerton, 
1,070), at folio 54. Another semi-choir of Religious of late fifteenth and early sixteenth 
century date, very well drawn, may be found in Egerton, 2,125, *• II 7> v - 

t Lydgate's Life of St. Edmund, a MS. executed in 1473 A.D., preserved in the British 
Museum (Harl. 2,278), gives several very good representations of the shrine of that saint 
at St. Edmund's Bury, with the attendant monks, pilgrims worshipping, &c. 

t " Tombes upon tabernacles, tiled aloft, 

* * » * 

Made of marble in many manner wise, 
Knights in their conisantes clad for the nonce, 
All it seemed saints y-sacred upon earth, 
And lovely ladies y-wrought lyen by their side? 
In many gay garments that were gold-beaten." 

Fiers Ploughman's Creed. 

$ Henry VII. agreed with the Abbot and Convent of Westminster that there should 
be four tapers burning continually at his tomb — two at the sides, and two at the ends, 
each eleven feet long, and twelve pounds n weight; thirty tapers, &c, in the hearse; 
and four torches to be held about it at his weekly obit ; and one hundred tapers nine feet 
long, and twenty-four torches of twice the weight, to be lighted at his anniversary. 

The Chapter-house. 


ie dusty banners * which hung over the tombs, while the cowled monks 
in their stalls and prayed. Or when, on some high festival, the convent 
ted round the lofty aisles in procession, two and two, clad in rich 
jpes over their coarse frocks, preceded by cross and banner, with 
inging censers pouring forth clouds of incense, while one of those 
lgelic boy's voices which we still sometimes hear in cathedrals chanted 
ie solemn litany — the pure sweet ringing voice floating along the vaulted 
»les, until it was lost in the swell of the chorus of the whole procession — 
ra I Or a I Or a ! pro nobis ! 

The Cloister was usually situated on the south side of the nave of the 

lurch, so that the nave formed its north side, and the south transept a 

of its eastern side ; but sometimes, from reasons of local convenience, 

ie cloister was on the north side of the nave, and then the relative 

>sitions of the other buildings were similarly transposed. 

The Chapter-house was always on the east side of the court. In 

stablishments of secular canons it seems to have been always multi- 

ided f with a central pillar to support its groining, and a lofty, conical, 

lead-covered roof. In these instances it is placed in the open space 

atward of the cloister, and is usually approached by a passage from the 

5t side of the cloister court. In the houses of all the other orders % the 

lapter- house is rectangular, even where the church is a cathedral. 

Jsually, then, the chapter-house is a rectangular building on the east side 

the cloister, and its longest axis is east and west ; at Durham it has an 

• " l r or though a man in their mynster a masse wolde heren, 
His sight shal so be set on sundrye werkes, 
The penons and the pomels and poyntes of sheldes 
Withdrawen his devotion and dusken his heart." 

Piers Ploughman's Vision. 

t The chapter-houses attached to the cathedrals of York, Salisbury, and Wells, are 

:tagonal ; those of Hereford and Lincoln, decagonal ; Lichfield, polygonal ; Worcester 

circular. All these were built by secular canons. 

% There are only two exceptions hitherto observed : that of the Benedictine Abbey of 
Westminster, which is polygonal, and that of Thornton Abbey, of regular canons, which 
is octagonal. 


The Monks oj the Middle Ages, 

eastern apse.* It was a large and handsome room, with a good deal of 
architectural ornament ;f often the western end of it is divided off as a 
vestibule or ante-room ; and generally it is so large as to be divided into 
two or three aisles by rows of pillars. Internally, rows of stalls or benches 

Monks and Lawyers in Chapter-house. 

were arranged round the walls for the convent ; there was a higher seat at 
the east end for the abbot or prior, and a desk in the middle from which 
certain things were read. Every day after the service called Terce, the 
convent walked in procession from the choir to the chapter-house, and 
took their proper places. When the abbot had taken his place, the monks 

* And at Norwich it appears to have had an eastern apse. See ground-plan in Mr. 
Mackenzie E. C. Walcott's " Church and Conventual Arrangement," p. 85. 
t Piers Ploughman describes the chapter-house of a Benedictine convent : — 
" There was the chapter-house, wrought as a great church, 
Carved and covered and quaintly entayled [sculptured] ; 
With seemly selure [ceiling] y-set aloft, 
As a parliament house y-painted about." 

The Cloister Buildings. 79 

descended one step and bowed ; he returned their salutation, and all took 

their seats. A sentence of the rule of the order was read by one of the 

lovices from the desk, and the abbot, or in his absence the prior, delivered 

explanatory or hortatory sermon upon it ; then from another portion 

)f the book was read the names of brethren, and benefactors, and persons 

who had been received into fraternity, whose decease had happened on 

mt day of the year ; and the convent prayed a requicscant in pace for their 

)uls, and the souls of all the faithful departed this life. Then members 

)f the convent who had been guilty of slight breaches of discipline con- 

ssed them, kneeling upon a low stool in the middle, and on a bow from 

le abbot, intimating his remission of the breach, they resumed their seats. 

any had a complaint to make against any brother, it was here made and 

ljudged.* Convent business was also transacted. The woodcut gives an 

imple of the kind. Henry VII. had made grants to Westminster Abbey, 

condition that the convent should perform certain religious services 

his behalf ;\ and in order that the services should not fall into disuse, 

le directed that yearly, at a certain period, the chief-justice, or the king's 

torney, or the recorder of London, should attend in chapter, and the 

)stract of the grant and agreement between the king and the convent 

lould be read. The grant which was thus to be read still exists in the 

British Museum ; it is written in a volume superbly bound, with the royal 

Is attached in silver cases ; it is from the illuminated letter at the head 

one of the deeds in this book \ that our woodcut is taken. It rudely 

jpresents the chapter-house, with the chief-justice and a group of lawyers 

Dn one side, the abbot and convent on the other, and a monk reading the 

grant from the desk in the middle. 

Lydgate's "Life of St. Edmund" (Harl. 2,278) was written a.d. 1433, by 

• In the " Vision of Piers Ploughman " one of the characters complains that if he 
commits any fault — 

" They do me fast fridays to bread and water, 
And am challenged in the chapitel-house as I a child were ; " 
and he is punished in a childish way, which is too plainly spoken to bear quotation. 
+ See note on p. 76. 
\ The woodcut on a preceding page (23) is from another initial letter of the same book. 

8o The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

command of his abbot — he was a monk of St. Edmund's Bury — on the 
occasion of King Henry VI. being received — 

" Of their chapter a brother for to be ;" 
that is, to the fraternity of the house. An illumination on f. 6 seems to 
represent the king sitting in the abbot's place in the chapter-house, with 
royal officers behind him, monks in their places on each side of the 
chapter-house, the lectern in the middle, and a group of clerks at the 
west end. It is probably intended as a picture of the scene of the king's 
being received to fraternity. 

Adjoining the south transept is usually a narrow apartment ; the de- 
scription of Durham, drawn up soon after the Dissolution, says that it was 
the " Locutory." Another conjecture is that it may have been the vestry. 
At Netley it has a door at the west, with a trefoil light over it, a two-light 
window at the east, two niches, like monumental niches, in its north and 
south walls, and a piscina at the east end of its south wall. 

Again, between this and the chapter-house is often found a small apart- 
ment, which some have conjectured to be the penitential cell. In other 
cases it seems to be merely a passage from the cloister-court to the space 
beyond ; in which space the abbot's lodging is often situated, so that it 
may have been the abbot's entrance to the church and chapter. 

In Cistercian houses there is usually another long building south of the 
chapter-house, its axis running north and south. This was perhaps in its 
lower story the Frater-house, a room to which the monks retired after 
refection to converse, and to take their allowance of wine, or other indul- 
gences in diet which were allowed to them; and some quotations in 
Fosbroke would lead us to imagine that the monks dined here on feast 
days. It would answer to the great chamber of mediaeval houses, and in 
some respects to the Combination-room * of modern colleges. The upper 
story of this building was probably the Dormitory. This was a long room, 
with a vaulted or open timber roof, in which the pallets were arranged in rows 
on each side against the wall. The prior or sub-prior usually slept in the 

■ A room adjoining the hall, to which the fellows retire after dinner to take their wine 
anu converse. 

The Monastery. 8 1 

dormitory, with a light burning near him, in order to maintain order. 
The monks slept in the same habits * which they wore in the day-time. 

About the middle of the south side of the court, in Cistercian houses, 
there is a long room, whose longer axis lies north and south, with a smaller 
room on each side of it, which was probably the Refectory. In other 
houses, the refectory forms the south side of the cloister court, lying parallel 
with the nave of the church. Very commonly it has a row of pillars down 
the centre, to support the groined roof. It was arranged, like all mediaeval 
halls, with a dais at the upper end and a screen at the lower. In place of 
the oriel window of mediaeval halls, there was a pulpit, which was often in 
the embrasure of a quasi-oriel window, in which one of the brethren read 
some edifying book during meals. 

The remaining apartments of the cloister-court it is more difficult to 
appropriate. In some of the great Cistercian houses whose ground-plan 
can be traced — as Fountains, Salley, Netley, &c. — possibly the long 
apartment which is found on the west side of the cloister was the hall of 
the Hospitium, with chambers over it Another conjecture is, that it was 
the house of the lay brethrea 

In the uncertainty which at present exists on these points of monastic 
arrangement, we cannot speak with any degree of certainty ; but we throw 
together some data on the subject in the subjoined note.f 

• The ordinary fashion of the time was to sleep without any clothing whatever. 

t In the plan of the ninth-century Benedictine monastery of St. Gall, published in the 
Archccological Journal for June, 1848, the dormitory is on the east, with the calefactory 
under it ; the refectory on the south, with the clothes-store above ; the cellar on the west, 
with the larders above. In the plan of Canterbury Cathedral, a Benedictine house, as 
it existed in the latter half of the twelfth century, the church was on the south, the 
chapter-house and dormitory on the east, the refectory, parallel with the church, on 
the north, and the cellar on the west. At the Benedictine monastery at Durham, the 
church was on the north, the chapter-house and locutory on the east, the refectory on the 
south, and the dormitory on the west. At the Augustinian Regular Priory of Bridlington, 
the church was on the north, the fratry (refectory) on the south, the chapter-house on the 
east, the dortor also on the east, up a stair twenty steps high, and the west side was 
occupied by the prior's lodgings. 

At the Premonstratensian Abbey of Easby, the church is on the north, the transept, 
passage, chapter-house, and small apartments on the east, the refectory on the south, and 
on the west two large apartments, with a passage between them. The Rev. J. F. Turner, 


82 The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

The Scriptorium is said to have been usually over the chapter-house. 
It was therefore a large apartment, capable of containing many persons, 
and, in fact, many persons did work together in it in a very business-like 
manner at the transcription of books. For example, William, Abbot 
of Herschau, in the eleventh century, as stated by his biographer: 
" Knowing, what he had learned by laudable experience, that sacred 
reading is the necessary food of the mind, made twelve of his monks very 
excellent writers, to whom he committed the office of transcribing the holy 
Scriptures, and the treatises of the Fathers. Besides these, there were an 
indefinite number of other scribes, who wrought with equal diligence on 
the transcription of other books. Over them was a monk well versed in 
all kinds of knowledge, whose business it was to appoint some good work 
as a task for each, and to correct the mistakes of those who wrote 
negligently."* The general chapter of the Cistercian order, held in 
a.d. 1 134, directs that the same silence should be maintained in the scrip- 
torium as in the cloister. Sometimes perhaps little separate studies of 
wainscot were made round this large apartment, in which the writers sat at 
their desks. Sometimes this literary work was carried on in the cloister, 
which, being glazed, would be a not uncomfortable place in temperate 
weather, and a very comfortable place in summer, with its coolness and 
quiet, and the peep through its windows on the green court and the foun- 
tain in the centre, and the grey walls of the monastic buildings beyond ; 
the slow footfall of a brother going to and fro, and the cawing of the rooks 
in the minster tower, would add to the dreamy charm of such a library, f 

Odo, Abbot of St. Martin's, at Tournay, about 1093, "used to exult in 
the number of writers the Lord had given him ; for if you had gone into 
the cloister you might in general have seen a dozen young monks sitting 
on chairs in perfect silence, writing at tables carefully and artificially 

Chaplain of Bishop Cozin's Hall, Durham, describes these as the common house and 
kitchen, and places the dormitory in a building west of them, at a very inconvenient dis- 
tance from the church. 

* Maitland's "Dark Ages." 

f At Winchester School, until a comparatively recent period, the scholars in the 
summer time studied in the cloisters. 

The Monastery. 


constructed. All Jerome's commentaries on the Prophets, all the works of 
St. Gregory, and everything that he could find of St. Augustine, Ambrose, 
Isodore, Bede, and the Lord Anselm, then Abbot of Bee, and afterwards 
Archbishop of Canterbury, he caused to be transcribed. So that you 
would scarcely have found such a monastery in that part of the country, 
and everybody was begging for our copies to correct their own." Some- 
times little studies of wainscot were erected in the cloisters for the monks 
to study or transcribe in. At Gloucester Cathedral, at Beaulieu, and at 
Melrose, for example, there are traces of the way in which the windows 
of the cloisters were enclosed and turned into such studies.* 

Monk in Scriptorium, 

There are numerous illuminations representing monks and ecclesiastics 
writing; they sit in chairs of various kinds, some faldstools, some 
armed chairs, some armed backed ; and they have desks and bookstands 
before them of various shapes, commonly a stand with sloping desk like 
a Bible lectem, not unfrequently a kind of dumb-waiter besides on which 
are several books. We see also in these illuminations the forms of the 

• For much curious information about scriptoria and monastic libraries, see Maitland'. 
** Dark Ages," quoted above. 

84 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

pens, knives, inkstands, &c, which were used. We will only mention two 
of unusual interest. One is in a late fourteenth-century Psalter, Harl. 
2,897, at p. 186, v., where St. Jude sits writing his Epistle in a canopied 
chair, with a shelf across the front of the chair to serve as a desk ; a string 
with a weight at the end holds his parchment down, and there is a bench 
beside, on which lies a book. A chair with a similar shelf is at f. 12 of the 
MS. Egerton, 1,070. Our woodcut on the preceding page is from a MS. 
in the Library of Soissons. We also find representations of ecclesiastics 
writing in a small cell which may represent the enclosed scriptoria — e.g. 
St. Bonaventine writing, in the MS. Harl. 3,229 ; St. John painting, in 
the late fifteenth-century MS. Add. 15,677, f. 35. 

The Abbot's Lodging sometimes formed a portion of one of the monastic 
courts, as at St. Mary, Bridlington, where it formed the western side of 
the cloister-court; but more usually it was a detached house, precisely 
similar to the contemporary unfortified houses of laymen of similar 
rank and wealth. No particular site relative to the monastic buildings 
was appropriated to it; it was erected wherever was most convenient 
within the abbey enclosure. The principal rooms of an abbof s house are 
the Hall, the Great Chamber, the Kitchen, Buttery, Cellars, &c, the 
Chambers, and the Chapel. We must remember that the abbots of the 
greater houses were powerful noblemen ; the abbots of the smaller houses 
were equal in rank and wealth to country gentlemen. They had a very 
constant succession of noble and gentle guests, whose entertainment was 
such as their rank and habits required. This involved a suitable 
habitation and establishment ; and all this must be borne in mind whe« 
we endeavour to picture to ourselves an abbot's lodging. To give an 
idea of the magnitude of some of the abbots' houses, we may record that 
the hall of the Abbot of Fountains was divided by two rows of pillars into 
a centre and aisles, and that it was 170 feet long by 70 feet wide.* Half 
a dozen noble guests, with their retinues of knights and squires, and men- 
at-arms and lacqueys, and all the abbot's men to boot, would be lost in 

* The hall of the Royal Palace of Winchester, erected at the same period, was 
III feet by 55 feet 9 inches. 

The Monastery. 


such a hall. On the great feast-days it might, perhaps, be comfortably 
filled. But even such a hall would hardly contain the companies who were 
sometimes entertained, on such great days for instance as an abbot's 
installation-day, when it is on record that an abbot of one of the greater 
houses would give a feast to three or four thousand people. 

Of the lodgings of the superiors of smaller houses, we may take that of 
the Prior of St. Mary's, Bridlington, as an example. It is very accurately 
described by King Henry's commissioners ; it formed the west side of the 
cloister-court; it contained a hall with an undercroft, eighteen paces 
long from the screen to the dais,* and ten paces wide ; on its north side a 
great chamber, twenty paces long and nineteen wide ; at the west end of 
the great chamber the prior's sleeping-chamber, 
and over that a garret ; on the east side of the 
same chamber a little chamber and a closet; 
at the south end of the hall the buttery and 
pantry, and a chamber called the Auditor's 
Chamber; at the same end of the hall a fair 
parlour, called the Low Summer Parlour ; and 
over it another fair chamber ; and adjoining that 
three little chambers for servants ; at the south 
end of the hall the Prior's Kitchen, with three 
houses covered with lead, and adjoining it a 
chamber called the South Cellarer's Chamber, f 

There were several other buildings of a monastery, which were some- 
times detached, and placed as convenience dictated. The Infirmary 
especially seems to have been more commonly detached ; in many cases 
it had its own kitchen, and refectory, and chapel, and chambers, which 
sometimes were arranged round a court, and formed a complete little 
separate establishment. 

The Hospitium, or Guest-house, was sometimes detached; but more 

A Present of Fish. 

• Its total length would perhaps be about twenty-four paces. 

t The above woodcut, from the Harleian MS. 1,527, represents, probably, the cellarei 
of a Dominican convent receiving a donation of a fish. It curiously suggests the scene 
depicted in Sir Edwin Landseer's " Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time." 

86 The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

usually it seems to have formed a portion of an outer court, westward of 
the cloister-court, which court was entered from the great gates, or from 
one of the outer gates of the abbey. In Cistercian houses, as we have 
said, the guest-house, with its hall below and its chambers above, perhaps 
occupied the west side of the cloister-court, and would therefore form the 
eastern range of buildings of this outer court. At St. Mary's, Bridlington, 
where the prior's lodging occupied this position, the " lodgings and stables 
for strangers" were on the north side of this outer court. The guest- 
houses were often of great extent and magnificence. The Guesten-hall 
of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, still remains, and is a very noble building, 
150 feet long by 50 broad, of Norman date, raised on an undercroft. 
The Guesten-hall of Worcester also remains, a very noble building on an 
undercroft, with a fine carved timber roof, and portions of the painting 
which decorated the wall behind the dais still visible.* Besides the 
hall, the guest-house contained often a great-chamber (answering to our 
modern drawing-room) and sleeping-chambers, and a chapel, in which 
service was performed for guests — for in those days it was the custom 
always to hear prayers before dinner and supper. 

Thus, at Durham, we are told that " a famous house of hospitality was 
kept within the abbey garth, called the Guest-hall, and was situate in the 
west side, towards the water. The sub-prior of the house was the master 
thereof, as one appointed to give entertainment to all estates, noble, 
gentle, or what other degree soever, came thither as strangers. Their 
entertainment was not inferior to that of any place in England, both for 
the goodness of their diet, the clean and neat furniture of their lodgings, 
and generally all things necessary for travellers ; and, with this entertain- 
ment, no man was required to depart while he continued honest and of 
good behaviour. This hall was a stately place, not unlike the body of a 
church, supported on each side by very fine pillars, and in the midst of 
the hall a long range for the fire. The chambers and lodgings belonging 
to it were kept very clean and richly furnished." At St Albans, the Guest- 

* See an account of this hall, with pen-and-ink sketches by Mr. Street, in the volume 
of the Worcester Architectural Society for 1854. 

The Monastery, 87 

house was an enormous range of rooms, with stabling for three hundred 

There is a passage in the correspondence of Coldingham Priory (pub- 
lished by the Surties Society, 1841, p. 52) which gives us a graphic sketch 
of the arrival of guests at a monastery: — " On St. Alban's-day, June 17 
[year not given — it was towards the end of Edward III.], two monks, 
with a company of certain secular persons, came riding into the gateway 
of the monastery about nine o'clock in the morning. This day happened 
to be Sunday, but they were hospitably and reverently received, had 
lodgings assigned them, a special mass service performed for them, and 
after a refection and washing their feet, it being supposed that they were 
about to pursue their journey to London the next morning, they were left 
at an early hour to take repose. While the bell was summoning the rest 
of the brotherhood to vespers, the monk who had been in attendance 
upon them (the hospitaller) having gone with the rest to sing his chant in 
the choir, the secular persons appear to have asked the two monks to take 
a walk with them to look at the Castle of Durham," &c* 

There could hardly have been any place in the Middle Ages which 
could have presented such a constant succession of picturesque scenes as 
the Hospitium of a monastery. And what a contrast must often have 
existed between the Hospitium and the Cloister. Here a crowd of people 
of every degree — nobles and ladies, knights and dames, traders with then- 
wares, minstrels with their songs and juggling tricks, monks and clerks, 
palmers, friars, beggars — bustling about the court or crowding the long 
tables of the hall ; and, a few paces off, the dark-frocked monks, with faces 
buried in their cowls, pacing the ambulatory in silent meditation, or sitting 
at their meagre refection, enlivened only by the monotonous sound of the 
novice's voice reading a homily from the pulpit ! 

Many of the remaining buildings of the monastery were arranged around 
this outer court. Ingulphus tells us that the second court of the Saxon 
monastery of Croyland (about 875 a.d.) had the gate on the north, and 

• Quoted by Archdeacon Churton in a paper read before the Yorkshire Architectural 
Society in 1853. 

88 The Monks of the Middle Ages, 

the almonry near it — a very usual position for it ; the shops of the tailors 
and shoe-makers, the hall of the novices, and the abbot's lodgings on the 
east ; the guest-hall and its chambers on the south ; and the stable-house, 
and granary, and bake-house on the west. The Gate-house was usually a 
large and handsome tower, with the porter's lodge on one side of the 
arched entrance ; and often a strong room on the other, which served as 
the prison of the manor-court of the convent ; and often a handsome room 
over the entrance, in which the manorial court was held. In the middle 
of the court was often a stone cross, round which markets and fairs were 
often held. 

In the " Vision of Piers Ploughman " an interesting description is given 
of a Dominican convent of the fourteenth century. We will not trouble 
the reader with the very archaic original, but will give him a paraphrase of 
it. The writer says that, on approaching, he was so bewildered by their 
magnitude and beauty, that for a long time he could distinguish nothing 
certainly but stately buildings of stone, pillars carved and painted, and great 
windows well wrought. In the quadrangle he notices the cross standing 
in the centre, surrounded with tabernacle-work: he enters the minster 
(church), and describes the arches carved and gilded, the wide windows 
full of shields of arms and merchants' marks on stained glass, the high 
tombs under canopies, with armed effigies in alabaster, and lovely ladies 
lying by their sides in many gay garments. He passes into the cloister 
and sees it pillared and painted, and covered with lead and paved with 
tiles, and conduits of white metal pouring their water into latten (bronze) 
lavatories beautifully wrought. The chapter-house he says was wrought 
like a great church, carved and painted like a parliament-house. Then 
he went into the fratry, and found it a hall fit for a knight and his house- 
hold, with broad boards (tables) and clean benches, and windows wrought 
as in a church. Then he wandered all about — 

" And seigh halles ful heigh, and houses ful noble, 
Chambres with chymneys, and chapeles gaye, 
And kychenes for an high kynge in castels to holden, 
And their dortoure ydight with dores ful stronge, 
Fermerye, and fraitur, with fele more houses, 

Monastic Cells. 89 

And all strong stone wall, sterne opon heithe, 
With gay garites and grete, and ich whole yglazed, 
And other houses ynowe to herberwe the queene." 

The churches of the friars differed from those of monks. They were 
frequently composed either of a nave only or a nave and two (often 
very narrow) aisles, without transepts, or chapels, or towers; they were 
adapted especially for preaching to large congregations — e.g. the Austin 
Friars' Church in the City of London, lately restored ; St. Andrew's Hall, 
Norwich. In Viollet le Due's " Dictionary of Architecture " is given a 
bird's-eye view of the monastery of the Augustine Friars of St Marie des 
Vaux Verts, near Brussels, which is a complete example of one of these 

Every monastery had a number of dependent establishments of greater 
or less size : cells on its distant estates ; granges on its manors ; chapels in 
places where the abbey tenants were at a distance from a church; 
and often hermitages under its protection. A ground -plan and view 
of one of these cells, the Priory of St, Jean-les-Bons-hommes, of the 
end of the twelfth century, still remaining in a tolerably perfect state, is 
given by Viollet le Due (Diet. Arch., i. 276, 277). It is a miniature 
monastery, with a little cloistered court, surrounded by the usual buildings : 
an oratory on the north side ; on the east a sacristy, and chapter-house, 
and long range of buildings, with dormitory over; on the south side the 
refectory and kitchen ; and another exterior court, with stables and offices. 
The preceptory of Hospitallers at Chibbum, Northumberland, which 
remains almost as the knights left it, is another example of these small 
rural houses. It is engraved in Turner's " Domestic Architecture," vol. ii. 
p. 197. It also consists of a small court, with a chapel about forty-five feet 
long, on the west side ; and other buildings, which we cannot appropriate, 
on the remaining sides. Of the monastic cells we have already spoken in 
describing the office of prior. The one or two brethren who were placed 
in a cell to manage the distant estates of the monastery would probably be 

* Ground-plans of the Dominican Friary at Norwich, the Carmelite Friary at Hulne 
and the Franciscan Friary at Kilconnel, may be found in Walcott's "Church and Cou. 
ventual Arrangement." 

go The Monks of the Middle Ages. 

chosen rather for their qualities as prudent stewards than for their piety. 
The command of money which their office gave them, and their distance 
from the supervision of their ecclesiastical superiors, brought them under 
temptation, and it is probably in these cells, and among the brethren who 
superintended the granges, and the officials who could leave the monastery 
at pleasure on the plea of convent business, that we are to look for the 
irregularities of which the Middle-Age satirists speak. The monk among 
Chaucer's " Canterbury Pilgrims " was prior of a cell, for we read that — 

" When he rode, men might his bridel here 
Gingeling in a whistling sound, as clere 
And eke as loud as doth the chapelle belle, 
Ther as this lord was keeper of the celle." 

The monk on whose intrigue "The Shipman's Tale" is founded, was 
probably the cellarer of his convent : — 

" This noble monk of which I you devise, 
Had of his abbot, as him list, licence ; 
Because he was a man of high prudence, 
And eke an officer, out for to ride 
To seen his granges and his bernes wide." 

A< Abbot travelling. 

The abbot, too, sometimes gave license to the monks to go and see their 
friends, or to pass two or three days at one or other of the manors of the 

Monastic Cells. 


house for recreation; and sometimes he took a monk with him on his own 
journeys. In a MS. romance, in the British Museum (Add. 10,293, *"• ll )> 
is a representation of a monk with his hood on, journeying on horseback. 
We give here, from the St. Alban's Book (Nero, D. vii.), a woodcut of an 
abbot on horseback, with a hat over his hood — " an abbot on an ambling 
pad f he is giving his benediction in return to the salute of some passing 

Hermitages or anchorages sometimes depended on a monastery, and 
were not necessarily occupied by brethren of the monastery, but by any 
one desirous to embrace this mode of life whom the convent might choose. 
The hermit, however, probably, usually wore the habit of the order. The 
monastery often supplied the hermit with his food. In a picture in the MS. 
romance, before quoted (Add. 10,292, f. 98), is a representation of a 
knight-errant on horseback, conversing by the way with a clerk, who is 
carrying bread and wine to a hermitage. 

The woodcut with which we conclude, from the Harleian MS., 1,527, 
represents the characteristic costume of three orders of religious with 
whom we have been concerned — a bishop, an abbot, and a clerk. 

Bishop, Abbot, and CUrk. 




E have already related, in a former chapter (p. 3), that the ascetics 
who abandoned the stirring world of the ^Egypto-Greek cities, and 
resorted to the Theban desert to lead a life of self-mortification 
and contemplation, frequently associated themselves into communities, and 
thus gave rise to the ccenobitical orders of Christendom. But there were 
others who still preferred the solitary life ; and they had their imitators in 
every age and country of the Christian world. We have not the same 
fulness of information respecting these solitaries that we have respecting 
the great orders of monks and friars ; but the scattered notices which 
remain of them, when brought together, form a very curious chapter in the 
history of human nature, well worthy of being written out in ML The 
business of the present paper, however, is not to write the whole chapter, 
but only to select that page of it which relates to the English solitaries, 
and to give as distinct a picture as we can of the part which the Hermits 
and Recluses played on the picturesque stage of the England of the 
Middle Ages. 
We have to remember, at the outset, that it was not all who bore 

94 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

the name of Eremite who lived a solitary life. We have already had 
occasion to mention that Innocent IV., in the middle of the thirteenth 
century, found a number of small religious communities and solitaries, who 
were not in any of the recognised religious orders, and observed no 
authorised rule ; and that he enrolled them all into a new order, with the 
rule of St. Augustine, under the name of Eremiti Augustini. The new 
order took root, and flourished, and gave rise to a considerable number of 
large communities, very similar in every respect to the communities of 
friars of the three orders previously existing. The members of these new 
communities did not affect seclusion, but went about among the people, as 
the Dominicans, and Franciscans, and Carmelites did. The popular 
tongue seems to have divided the formal title of the new order, and to 
have applied the name of Augustine, or, popularly, Austin Friars, to 
these new communities of friars ; while it reserved the distinctive name of 
Eremites, or Hermits, for the religious, who, whether they lived absolutely 
alone, or in little aggregations of solitaries, still professed the old eremitical 
principle of seclusion from the world. These hermits may again be sub- 
divided into Hermits proper, and Recluses. The difference between them 
was this : that the hermit, though he professed a general seclusion from the 
world, yet, in fact, held communication with his fellow-men as freely as he 
pleased, and might go in and out of his hermitage as inclination prompted, 
or need required ; the recluse was understood to maintain a more strict 
abstinence from unnecessary intercourse with others, and had entered into 
a formal obligation not to go outside the doors of his hermitage. In the 
imperfect notices which we have of them, it is often impossible to deter- 
mine whether a particular individual was a hermit or a recluse ; but we 
incline to the opinion that of the male solitaries few had taken the vows of 
reclusion ; while the female solitaries appear to have been all recluses. So 
that, practically, the distinction almost amounts to this — that the male 
solitaries were hermits, and the females recluses. 

Very much of what we have to say of the mediaeval solitaries, of their 
abodes, and of their domestic economy, applies both to those who had, 
and to those who had not, made the further vow of reclusion. We shall, 
therefore, treat first of those points which are common to them, and 

The Hermits. 95 

then devote a further paper to those things which are peculiar to the 

The popular idea of a hermit is that of a man who was either a half- 
crazed enthusiast, or a misanthrope — a kind of Christian Timon — who 
abandoned the abodes of men, and scooped out for himself a cave in the 
rocks, or built himself a rude hut in the forest ; and lived there a half- 
savage life, clad in sackcloth or skins,* eating roots and wild fruits, and 
drinking of the neighbouring spring ; visited occasionally by superstitious 
people, who gazed and listened in fear at the mystic ravings, or wild 
denunciations, of the gaunt and haggard prophet. This ideal has probably 
been derived from the traditional histories, once so popular,t of the early 
hermit-saints ; and there may have been, perhaps, always an individual or 
two of whom this traditional picture was a more or less exaggerated repre- 
sentation. But the ordinary English hermit of the Middle Ages was a totally 
different type of man. He was a sober-minded and civilised person, who 

• In the National Gallery is a painting by Fra Angelico, in which is a hermit clad 
in a dress woven of rushes or flags. 

t "The Wonderful and Godly History of the Holy Fathers Hermits," is among 
Caxton's earliest-printed books. Piers Ploughman (" Vision ") speaks of — 
" Anthony and Egidius and other holy fathers 
"Woneden in wilderness amonge wilde bestes 
In spekes and in spelonkes, seldom spoke together. 
Ac nobler Antony ne Egedy ne hermit of that time 
Of lions ne of leopards no livelihood ne took, 
But of fowles that fly, thus find men in books." 
And again — 

" In prayers and in penance putten them many. 
All for love of our Lord liveden full strait, 
In hope for to have heavenly blisse 
As ancres and heremites that holden them in their cells 
And coveten not in country to kairen [walk] about 
For no likerous lifelihood, their liking to please." 
And yet again — 

" Ac ancres and heremites that eaten not but at nones 
And no more ere morrow, mine almesse shall they have, 
And of my cattle to keep them with, that have cloisters and churches, 
Ac Robert Run-about shall nought have of mine." 

Fitrs Ploughman's Vision. 

96 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

dressed in a robe very much like the robes of the other religious orders \ 
lived in a comfortable little house of stone or timber ; often had estates, or 
a pension, for his maintenance, besides what charitable people were 
pleased to leave him in their wills, or to offer in their lifetime ; he lived on 
bread and meat, and beer and wine, and had a chaplain to say daily 
prayers for him, and a servant or two to wait upon him ; his hermitage was 
not always up in the lonely hills, or deep-buried in the shady forests — very 
often it was by the great high roads, and sometimes in the heart of great 
towns and cities. 

This summary description is so utterly opposed to all the popular 
notions, that we shall take pains to fortify our assertions with sufficient 
proofs ; indeed, the whole subject is so little known that we shall illustrate 
it freely from all the sources at our command. And first, as it is one of 
our especial objects to furnish authorities for the pictorial representation 
of these old hermits, we shall inquire what kind of dress they did actually 
wear in place of the skins, or the sackcloth, with which the popular 
imagination has clothed them. 

We should be inclined to assume a priori that the hermits would wear 
the habit prescribed by Papal authority for the Eremiti Augustini, which, 
according to Stevens, consisted of " a white garment, and a white scapular 
over it, when they are in the house ; but in the choir, and when they go 
abroad, they put on, over all, a sort of cowl and a large hood, both black, 
the hood round before, and hanging down to the waist in a point, being 
girt with a black leather thong." And in the rude woodcuts which adorn 
Caxton's " Vitas Patrum," or " Lives of the Hermits," we do find some of 
the religious men in a habit which looks like a gown, with the arms coming 
through slits, which may be intended to represent a scapular, and with hoods 
and cowls of the fashion described ; while others, in the same book, are in 
a loose gown, in shape more like that of a Benedictine. Again, in Albert 
Durer's " St. Christopher," as engraved by Mrs. Jameson, in her " Sacred and 
Legendary Art," p. 445, the hermit is represented in a frock and scapular, 
with a cowl and hood. But in the majority of the representations of 
hermits which we meet with in mediaeval paintings and illuminated manu- 
scripts, the costume consists of a frock, sometimes girded, sometimes not, 



and over it an ample gown, like a cloak, with a hood ; and in the cases 
where the colour of the robe is indicated, it is almost always indicated by 
a light brown tint.* It is not unlikely that there were varieties of costume 
among the hermits. Perhaps those who were attached to the monasteries 
of monks and friars, and who seem to have been usually admitted to the 
fraternity of the house, t may have worn the cos- 
tume of the order to which they were attached ; 
while priest-hermits serving chantries may have 
worn the usual costume of a secular priest. 
Bishop Poore, who died 1237, in his"Ancren 
Pviewle," speaks of the fashion of the dress to 
be worn, at least by female recluses, as indifferent 
Bilney, speaking especially of the recluses in his 
day, just before the Reformation, says, "their 
apparell is indifferent, so it be dissonant from the 
laity." In the woodcuts, from various sources, 
which illustrate this paper, the reader will see for 
himself how the hermits are represented by the 
mediaeval artists, who had them constantly under 
their observation, and who at least tried their 
best to represent faithfully what they saw. The 
best and clearest illustration which we have been 
able to find of the usual costume in which the 
hermits are represented, we here give to the reader. It is from the figure 
of St. Damasus, one of the group in the fine picture of " St Jerome," by 

St. Damasus, Hermit. 

* Piers Ploughman (" Vision ") describes himself at the beginning of the poem as 
assuming the habit of a hermit — 

" In a summer season when soft was the sun 
In habit as a hermit unholy of works, 
"Went wild in this world, wonders to hear, 
All on a May morning on Malvern Hills," &c 
And at the beginning of the eighth part he says — 

" Thus robed in russet I roamed about 
All a summer season." 
t For the custom of admitting to the fraternity of a religious house, see p. 66* 


q8 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

Cosimo Roselli (who lived from 1439 t0 I 5°6), now in the National 
Gallery. The hermit-saint wears a light-brown frock, and scapular, with 
no girdle, and, over all, a cloak and hood of the same colour, and his 
naked feet are protected by wooden clogs. 

Other illustrations of hermits may be found in the early fourteenth cen- 
tury MS. Romances Additional 10,293 £ 335> an d i°, 2 94 f- 95- ^ n tne 
latter case there are two hermits in one hermitage ; also in Royal 1 6 G. vi. 
Illustrations of St. Anthony, which give authorities for hermit costume, 
and indications of what hermitages were, abound in the later MSS. ; for 
example, in King Rent's " Book of Hours " (Egerton 1,070), at f. 108, the 
hermit-saint is habited in a grey frock and black cloak with a T-cross on 
the breast ; he holds bell and book and staff in his hands. In Egerton 
1,149, of the middle of the fifteenth century. In Add. 15,677, of the latter 
part of the fifteenth century, at f. 150, is St. Anthony in brown frock and 
narrow scapulary, with a grey cloak and hood and a red skull cap ; he holds 
a staff and book ; his hermitage, in the background, is a building like a little 
chapel with a bell-cot on the gable, within a grassy enclosure fenced 
with a low wattled fence. Add. 18,854, of date 1525 a.d., f. 146, repre- 
sents St. Anthony in a blue-grey gown and hood, holding bell, rosary, 
and staff, entering his hermitage, a little building with a bell-cot on the 

A man could not take upon himself the character of a hermit at his own 
pleasure. It was a regular order of religion, into which a man could 
not enter without the consent of the bishop of the diocese, and into 
which he was admitted by a formal religious service. And just as 
bishops do not ordain men to holy orders until they have obtained a 
"title," a place in which to exercise their ministry, so bishops did not 
admit men to the order of Hermits until they had obtained a hermitage 
in which to exercise their vocation. 

The form of the vow made by a hermit is here given, from the Insti- 
tution Books of Norwich, lib. xiv. fo. 27a (" East Anglian," No. 9, p. 107). 
" I, John Fferys, nott maridd, promyt and avowe to God, o r Lady Sent Mary, 
and to all the seynts in heven, in the p'sence of you reverend fadre in God, 
Richard bishop of Norwich, the wowe of chastite, after the rule of sent 

Hermits. 99 

paule the heremite. In the name of the fadre, sone, and holy gost. John 
Fferere. xiij. meii, anno dni. mlvciiij. in capella de Thorpe." 

We summarize the service for habiting and blessing a hermit* from the 
pontifical of Bishop Lacy of Exeter, of the fourteenth century, f It begins 
with several psalms ; then several short prayers for the incepting hermit, 
mentioning him by name. \ Then follow two prayers for the benediction of 
his vestments, apparently for different parts of his habit ; the first mention- 
ing " hec indumenta humilitatem cordis et mundi contemptum signifi- 
cancia," — these garments signifying humility of heart, and contempt of 
the world ; the second blesses " hanc vestem pro conservande castitatis 
signo," — this vestment the sign of chastity. The priest then delivers the 
vestments to the hermit kneeling before him, with these words, " Brother, 
behold we give to thee the eremitical habit {Jiabitum heremiticuni), with which 
we admonish thee to live henceforth chastely, soberly, and holily ; in holy 
watchings, in fastings, in labours, in prayers, in works of mercy, that thou 
mayest have eternal life, and live for ever and ever." And he receives 
them saying, " Behold, I receive them in the name of the Lord ; and 
promise myself so to do according to my power, the grace of God, and of 
the saints, helping me." Then he puts off his secular habit, the priest 
saying to him, " The Lord put off from thee the old man with his deeds ; " 
and while he puts on his hermit's habit, the priest says, " The Lord put 
on thee the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and 
true holiness." Then follow a collect and certain psalms, and finally the 
priest sprinkles him with holy water, and blesses him. 

Men of all ranks took upon them the hermit life, and we find the 
popular writers of the time sometimes distinguishing among them ; one is 
a " hermit-priest,"§ another is a " gende hermit," not in the sense of the 

• " Officium induendi et benedicendi heremitam." 

t We are indebted to Mr. M. H. Bloxam for a copy of it 

X " Famulus tuus N." It is noticable that the masculine gender is used all through, 
without any such note as we find in the Service for Inclosing (which we shall have to 
notice hereafter), that this service shall serve for both sexes. 

§ The hermit who interposed between Sir Lionel and Sir Bors, and who was killed 
by Sir Lionel for his interference (Malory's "Prince Arthur," m , lxxix.), is called a 

IOO The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages, 

" gentle hermit of the dale," but meaning that he was a man of gentle 
birth. The hermit in whose hermitage Sir Launcelot passed long time is 
described as a " gentle hermit, which sometime was a noble knight and a 
great lord of possessions, and for great goodness he hath taken him unto 
wilful poverty, and hath forsaken his possessions, and his name is Sir 
Baldwin of Britain, and he is a full noble surgeon, and a right good leech." 
This was the type of hermit who was venerated by the popular superstition 
of the day : a great and rich man who had taken to wilful poverty, or a 
man who lived wild in the woods — a St. Julian, or a St. Anthony. A poor 
man who turned hermit, and lived a prosaic, pious, useful life, showing 
travellers the way through a forest, or over a bog, or across a ferry, and 
humbly taking their alms in return, presented nothing dramatic and striking 
to the popular mind ; very likely, too, many men adopted the hermit life 
for the sake of the idleness and the alms,* and deserved the small repute 
they had. 

It is apropos of Sir Launcelot's hermit above-mentioned that the romancer 
complains " for in those days it was not with the guise of hermits as it now 
is in these days. For there were no hermits in those days, but that they 
have been men of worship and prowess, and those hermits held great 
households, and refreshed people that were in distress." We find the 
author of " Piers Ploughman " making the same complaint. We have, as 
in other cases, a little modernised his language : — 

" But eremites that inhabit them by the highways, 
And in boroughs among brewers, and beg in churches, 
All that holy eremites hated and despised, 
(As riches, and reverences, and rich men's alms), 
These lollers,f latche drawers,^ lewd eremites, 

" hermit-priest." Also, in the Episcopal Registry of Lichfield, we find the bishop, date 
10th February, 1409, giving to Brother Richard Goldeston, late Canon of Wombrugge, 
now recluse at Prior's Lee, near Shiffenall, license to hear confessions. 

• " Great loobies and long, that loath were to swink [work], 
Clothed them in copes to be known from others, 
And shaped them hermits their ease to have." 

f Wanderers. \ Breakers out of their cells. 

Hermitages. IOI 

Covet on the contrary. Nor live holy as eremites, 

That lived wild in woods, with bears and Rons. 

Some had livelihood from their lineage* and of no life else ; 

And some lived by their learning, and the labour of their hands. 

Some had foreigners for friends, that their food sent ; 

And birds brought to some bread, whereby they lived. 

All these holy eremites were of high kin, 

Forsook land and lordship, and likings of the body. 

But these eremites that edify by the highways 

Whilome were workmen — webbers, and tailors, 

And carter's knaves, and clerks without grace. 

They held a hungry house. And had much want, 

Long labour, and light winnings. And at last espied 

That lazy fellows in friar's clothing had fat cheeks. 

Forthwith left they their labour, these lewd knaves, 

And clothed them in copes as they were clerks, 

Or one of some order [of monks or friars], or else prophets [ereMites]." 

This curious extract from " Piers Ploughman " leads us to notice the 

localities in which hermitages were situated. Sometimes, no doubt, they 

wexe in lonely and retired places among the hills, or hidden in the depths 

of the forests which then covered so large a portion of the land. On the 

next page is a very interesting little picture of hermit life, from a MS. Book 

of Hours, executed for Richard II. (British Museum, Domitian, A. xvii., 

folio 4 v.) The artist probably intended to represent the old hermits of the 

Egyptian desert, Piers Poughman's — 

" Holy eremites, 
That lived wild in woods 
With bears and lions ;" 

but, after the custom of mediaeval art. he has introduced the scenery, 
costume, and architecture of his own time. Erase the bears, which stand 
for the whole tribe of outlandish beasts, and we have a very pretty bit of 
English mountain scenery. The stags are characteristic enough of the scenery 
of mediaeval England. The hermitage on the right seems to be of the ruder 
sort, made in part of wattled work. On the left we have the more usual 
hermitage of stone, with its little chapel bell in a bell-cot on the gable. 
The venerable old hermit, coming out of the doorway, is a charming illus- 

• Kindred. 


The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

tration of the typical hermit, with his venerable beard, and his form 
bowed by age, leaning with one hand on his cross-staff, and carrying 
his rosary in the other. The hermit in the illustration hereafter given 
from the "History of Launcelot," on page 114, leans on a similar 
staff; it would seem as if such a staff was a usual part of the hermit's 
equipment.* The hermit in Albert Diirer's "St. Christopher." already 

Hermits and Hermitages. 

mentioned, also leans on a staff, but of rather different shape. Here is a 
companion-picture, in pen and ink, from the " Morte d' Arthur : " — " Then 
he departed from the cross [a stone cross which parted two ways in waste 
land, under which he had been sleeping], on foot, into a wild forest. And so 
by prime he came unto an high mountain, and there he found an hermitage, 

* In " Piers Ploughman" we read that — 

" Hermits with hoked staves 
Wenden to Walsingham ;" 

These hooked staves may, however, have been pilgrim staves, not hermit staves. The 
pastoral staff on the official seal of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, was of the same shape as 
the staff above represented. A staff of similar shape occurs on an early grave-stone 
at Welbeck Priory, engraved in the Rev. E. L. Cutts's "Manual of Sepulchral Slabs and 
Crosses," plate xxxv. 

Hermitages. 103 

and an hermit therein, which was going to mass. And then Sir Launcelot 
kneeled down upon both his knees, and cried out, ' Lord, mercy ! ' for 
his wicked works that he had done. So when mass was done, Sir Launcelot 
called the hermit to him, and prayed him for charity to hear his confession. 
1 With a good will,' said the good man." 

But many of the hermitages were erected along the great highways of 
the country, and especially at bridges and fords,* apparently with the 
express view of their being serviceable to travellers. One of the hermit- 
saints set up as a pattern for their imitation was St. Julian, who, with his 
wife, devoted his property and life to showing hospitality to travellers ; 
and the hermit who is always associated in the legends and pictures with 
St. Christopher, is represented as holding out his torch or lantern to light 
the giant ferryman, as he transports his passengers across the dangerous 
ford by which the hermitage was built. When hostelries, where the 
traveller could command entertainment for hire, were to be found only in 
the great towns, the religious houses were the chief resting-places of the 
traveller ; not only the conventual establishments, but the country clergy 
also were expected to be given to hospitality, t But both monasteries and 
country parsonages often lay at a distance of miles of miry and intricate 
by-road off the highway. We must picture this state of the country and of 
society to ourselves, before we can appreciate the intentions of those who 
founded these hospitable establishments ; we must try to imagine ourselves 
travellers, getting belated in a dreary part of the road, where it ran over a 
bleak wold, or dived through a dark forest, or approached an unknown 
ford, before we can appreciate the gratitude of those who suddenly caught 

* Blomfield, in his "History of Norfolk," 1532, says, "It is to be observed that 
hermitages were erected, for the most part, near great bridges (see Mag. Brit., On War- 
wickshire, p. 597, Dugdale, &c, and BadwelTs • Description of Tottenham ') and high 
roads, as appears from this, and those at Brandon, Downham, Stow Bardolph, in Norfolk, 
and Erith, in the Isle of Ely, &c." 

t In the settlement of the vicarage of Kelvedou, Essex, when the rectory was impro- 
priated to the abbot and convent of Westminster, in the fourteenth century, it was 
exptessly ordered that the convent, besides providing the vicar a suitable house, should 
also provide a hall for receiving guests. See subsequent chapter on the Seculai 

104 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages, 

the light from the hermit's window, or heard the faint tinkle of his chapel 
bell ringing for vespers. 

Such incidents occur frequently in the romances. Here is an example :— 
" Sir Launcelot rode all that day and all that night in a forest ; and at the 
last, he was ware of an hermitage and a chapel that stood between two 
cliffs ; and then he heard a little bell ring to mass, and thither he rode, 
and alighted, and tied his horse to the gate, and heard mass." Again : 
" Sir Gawayne rode till he came to an hermitage, and there he found the 
good man saying his even-song of our Lady. And there Sir Gawayne 
asked harbour for charity, and the good man granted it him gladly." 

We shall, perhaps, most outrage the popular idea of a hermit, when we 
assert that hermits sometimes lived in towns. The extract from " Piers 
Ploughman's Vision," already quoted, tells us of — 

" Eremites that inhabit them 
In boroughs among brewers." 

The difficulty of distinguishing between hermits proper and recluses 
becomes very perplexing in this part of our subject. There is abundant 
proof, which we shall have occasion to give later, that recluses, both male 
and female, usually lived in towns and villages, and these recluses are some- 
times called hermits, as well as by their more usual and peculiar name of 
anchorites and anchoresses. But we are inclined to the opinion, that not all 
the male solitaries who lived in towns were recluses. The author of " Piers 
Ploughman's Vision " speaks of the eremites who inhabited in boroughs as 
if they were of the same class as those who lived by the highways, and who 
ought to have lived in the wildernesses, like St. Anthony. The theory 
under which it was made possible for a solitary, an eremite, a man of the 
desert, to live in a town, was, that a churchyard formed a solitary place 
— a desert — within the town. The curious history which we are going to 
relate, seems to refer to hermits, not to recluses. The Mayor of Sudbury, 
under date January 28, 1433, petitioned the Bishop of Norwich, setting 
forth that the bishop had refused to admit " Richard Appleby, of Sudbury, 
conversant with John Levynton, of the same town, heremyte, to the order 
of Hermits, unless he was sure to be inhabited in a solitary place where 

Hermitages. 105 

virtues might be increased, and vice exiled ; " and that therefore " we have 
granted hym, be the assent of all the sayd parish and cherch reves, to be 
inhabited with the sayd John Levynton in his solitary place and hermytage, 
whych y* is made at the cost of the parysh, in the cherchyard of St. 
Gregory Cherche, to dwellen togedyr as (long as) yey liven, or whiche of 
them longest liveth ; " and thereupon the mayor prays the bishop to admit 
Richard Appleby to the order. 

This curious incident of two solitaries living together has a parallel in 
the romance of " King Arthur." When the bold Sir Bedivere had lost his 
lord King Arthur, he rode away, and, after some adventures, came to a 
chapel and an hermitage between two hills, " and he prayed the hermit 
that he might abide there still with him, to live with fasting and prayers. 
So Sir Bedivere abode there still with the hermit ; and there Sir Bedivere 
put upon him poor clothes, and served the hermit full lowly in fasting and 
in prayers." And afterwards (as we have already related) Sir Launcelot 
" rode all that day and all that night in a forest And at the last he was 
ware of an hermitage and a chapel that stood between two cliffs, and then 
he heard a little bell ring to mass ; and thither he rode, and alighted, and 
tied his horse to the gate and heard mass." He had stumbled upon 
the hermitage in which Sir Bedivere was living. And when Sir Bedivere 
had made himself known, and had " told him his tale all whole," " Sir 
Launcelot's heart almost burst for sorrow, and Sir Launcelot threw abroad 
his armour, and said, — ' Alas ! who may trust this world ? ' And then he 
kneeled down on his knees, and prayed the hermit for to shrive him and 
assoil him. And then he besought the hermit that he might be his 
brother. And he put an habit upon Sir Launcelot, and there he served 
God day and night with prayers and fastings." And afterwards Sir Bors 
came in the same way. And within half a year there was come Sir Galahad, 
Sir Galiodin, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Villiers, Sir Clarus, and Sir Gahalatine. 
* So these seven noble knights abode there still : and when they saw that 
Sir Launcelot had taken him unto such perfection, they had no list to 
depart, but took such an habit as he had. Thus they endured in great 
penance six years, and then Sir Launcelot took the habit of priesthood, 
and twelve months he sung the mass ; and there was none of these other 

106 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

knights but that they read in books, and helped for to sing mass, and ring 
bells, and did lowly all manner of service. And so their horses went 
where they would, for they took no regard in worldly riches." And after a 
little time Sir Launcelot died at the hermitage : " then was there weeping 
and wringing of hands, and the greatest dole they made that ever made 
man. And on the morrow the bishop-hermit sung his mass of requiem." 
The accompanying wood-cut, from one of the small compartments at the 
bottom of Cosimo Roselli's picture of St. Jerome, from which we have 
already taken the figure of St. Damasus, may serve to illustrate this 

Funeral Service of a Hermit. 

incident. It represents a number of hermits mourning over one of their 
brethren, while a pries^ in the robes proper to his office, stands at the 
head of the bier and says prayers, and his deacon stands at the foot, hold- 
ing a processional cross. The contrast between the robes of the priest 
and those of the hermits is lost in the woodcut ; in the original the priest's 
cope and amys are coloured red, while those of the hermits are tinted with 
light brown. 

If the reader has wondered how the one hermitage could accommodate 
these seven additional habitants, the romancer does not forget to satisfy 

Herm itages. 1 07 

his curiosity : a few pages farther we read — " So at the season of the night 
they went all to their beds, for they all lay in one chamber." It was not 
very unusual for hermitages to be built for more than one occupant ; but 
probably, in all such cases, each hermit had his own cell, adjoining their 
common chapel. This was the original arrangement of the hermits of the 
Thebais in their laura. The great difference between a hermitage with 
more than one hermit, and a small cell of one of the other religious orders, 
was that in such a cell one monk or friar would have been the prior, and 
the others subject to him; but each hermit was independent of any 
authority on the part of the other; he was subject only to the obligation 
of his rule, and the visitation of his bishop. 

The life * of the famous hermit, Richard of Hampole, which has lately 
been published for the first time by the Early English Text Society, will 
enable us to realise in some detail the character and life of a mediaeval hermit 
of the highest type. Saint Richard was born \ in the village of Thornton, 
in Yorkshire. At a suitable age he was sent to school by the care of his 
parents, and afterwards was sent by Richard Neville, Archdeacon of Durham, 
to Oxford, where he gave himself specially to theological study. At the age 
of nineteen, considering the uncertainty of life and the awfulness of judg- 
ment, especially to those who waste life in pleasure or spend it in acquiring 
wealth, and fearing lest he should fall into such courses, he left Oxford and 
returned to his father's house. One day he asked of his sister two of her 
gowns (tunicas), one white, the other grey, and a cloak and hood of his 
father's. He cut up the two gowns, and fashioned out of them and of the 
hooded cloak an imitation of a hermit's habit, and next day he went off 
into a neighbouring wood bent upon living a hermit life. Soon after, on 
the vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, he went to a certain 
church, and knelt down to pray in the place which the wife of a certain 
worthy knight, John de Dalton, was accustomed to occupy. When the 
lady came to church, her servants would have turned out the intruder, but 
she would not permit it. When vespers were over and he rose from his 

* From the " Officium et Legenda de Vita Ricardi Rolle.' 
t When is not stated ; he died in 1349. 

108 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

knees, the sons of Sir John, who were students at Oxford, recognised him 
as the son of William Rolle, whom they had known at Oxford. Next day 
Richard again went to the same church, and without any bidding put on a 
surplice and sang mattins and the office of the mass with the rest. And 
when the gospel was to be read at mass, he sought the blessing of the 
priest, and then entered the pulpit and preached a sermon to the people of 
such wonderful edification that many were touched with compunction even 
to tears, and all said they had never heard before a sermon of such power 
and efficacy. After mass Sir John Dalton invited him to dinner. When 
he entered into the manor he took his place in a ruined building, and would 
not enter the hall, according to the evangelical precept, " When thou art 
bidden to a wedding sit down in the lowest room, and when he that hath 
bidden thee shall see it he will say to thee, Friend, go up higher ;" 
which was fulfilled in him, for the knight made him sit at table with 
his own sons. But he kept such silence at dinner that he did not 
speak one word ; and when he had eaten sufficiently he rose before they 
took away the table and would have departed, but the knight told 
him this was contrary to custom, and made him sit down again. After 
dinner the knight had some private conversation with him, and being 
satisfied that he was not a madman, but really seemed to have the voca- 
tion to a hermit's life, he clothed him at his own cost in a hermit's habit, 
and retained him a long time in his own house, giving him a solitary 
chamber {locum mansionis solitaries)* and providing him with all neces- 
saries. Our hermit then gave himself up to ascetic discipline and a 
contemplative life. He wrote books ; he counselled those who came to 
him. He did both at the same time ; for one afternoon the lady of the house 

* Afterwards it is described as a cell at a distance from the family, where he was 
accustomed to sit solitary and to pass his time in contemplation. In doing this Sir John 
Dalton and his wife were, according to the sentiment of the time, following the example 
of the Shunammite and her husband, who made for Elisha a little chamber on the wall, 
and set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick (2 Kings iv. 10). 
The Knight of La Tour Landry illustrates this when in one of his tales (ch. xcv.) he 
describes the Shunammite's act in the language of mediaeval custom : " This good 
woman had gret devocion unto this holy man, and required and praied hym for to come 
to her burghe and loged in her hous, and her husbonde and she made a chambre soli- 
taire for this holy man, where as he might use his devocions and serve God." 

Hermitages. 1 09 

came to him with many other persons and found him writing very rapidly, 
and begged him to stop writing and speak some words of edification to 
them ; and he began at once and continued to address them for two hours 
with admirable exhortations to cultivate virtue and to put away worldly 
vanities, and to increase the love of their hearts for God ; but at the same 
time he went on writing as fast as before. He used to be so absorbed 
in prayer that his friends took off his torn cloak, and when it had been 
mended put it on him again, without his knowing it. Soon we hear of his 
having temptations like those which assailed St. Anthony, the devil 
tempting him in the form of a beautiful woman. He was specially desirous 
to help recluses and those who required spiritual consolation, and who 
were vexed by evil spirits. 

At length Lady Dalton died, and (whether as a result of this is not stated) 
the hermit left his cell and began to move from place to place. One time he 
came near the cell of Dame Margaret, the recluse of Anderby in Richmond- 
shire, and was told that she was dumb and suffering from some strange 
disease, and went to her. And he sat down at the window of the house of 
the recluse,* and when they had eaten, the recluse felt a desire to sleep ; 
and being oppressed with sleep her head fell towards the window at which 
St. Richard was reclined. And when she had slept a little, leaning some- 
what on Richard, suddenly she was seized with a convulsion, and awoke 
with her power of speech restored. 

He wrote many works of ascetic and mystical divinity which were 
greatly esteemed. The Early English Text Society has published some 
specimens in the work from which these notices are gathered, which show 
that his reputation as a devotional writer was not undeserved. At length 
he settled at Hampole, where was a Cistercian nunnery. Here he died, 
and in the church of the nunnery he was buried. We are indebted for the 
Officium and Legenda from which we have gathered this outline of his life 
to the pious care of the nuns of Hampole, to whom the fame of Richard's 
sanctity was a source of great profit and honour. That he had a line of 

* Either the little window through which she communicated with the outer world, or 
perhaps (as suggested further on) a window between her cell and a guest-chamber in 
which she received visitors. 

no The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

successors in his anchorage is indicated by the fact hereafter stated 
(p. 128), that in 1415 a.d., Lord Scrope left by will a bequest to Elizabeth, 
late servant to the anchoret of Hampole. 

There are indications that these hermitages were sometimes mere bothies 
of branches ; there is a representation of one, from which we here give a 
woodcut, in an illuminated MS. romance of Sir Launcelot, of early 
fourteenth-century date (British Museum, Add. 10,293, folio 118 v., date 
13 1 6) : we have already noticed another of wattled work.* There are also 

Sir Launcelot and a Hermit. 

caves + here and there in the country which are said by tradition to have 
been hermitages : one is described in the Archaeological Journal, vol. iv., 
p. 150. It is a small cave, not easy of access, in the side of a hill called 
Cardiff Tor, near Rowsley, a little miserable village not far from Haddon 
Hall. In a recess, on the right side as you enter the cave, is a crucifix 
about four feet high, sculptured in bold relief in the red grit rock out of 

* A hermitage, partly of stone, partly of timber, may be seen in the beautiful MS. 
Egerton 1,147, f. 218 v. 

t A very good representation of a cave hermitage may be found in the late MS. 
Egerton, 2,125, f. 206 v. Also in the Harl. MS. 1,527, at f. 14 v., is a hermit in a cave ; 
and in Royal 10 E IV. f. 130, here a man is bringing the hermit food and drink. 



which the cave is hollowed ; and close to it, on the right, is a rude niche, 
perhaps to hold a lamp. 

St. Robert's Chapel, at Knaresborough, Yorkshire, is a very excellent 
example of a hermitage.* It is hewn out of the rock, at the bottom of a 
cliff, in the corner of a sequestered dell. The exterior, a view of which is 
given below, presents us with a simply arched doorway at the bottom of 

Exterior View of St. Robert's Chapel, Knaresborough. 

the rough cliff, with an arched window on the left, and a little square 
opening between, which looks like the little square window of a recluse. 
Internally we find the cell sculptured into the fashion of a little chapel, 
with a groined ceiling, the groining shafts and ribs well enough designed, 
but rather rudely executed. There is a semi-octagonal apsidal recess at 
the east end, in which the altar stands ; a piscina and a credence and stone 
seat in the north wall ; a row of sculptured heads in the south wall, and a 
grave-stone in the middle of the floor. This chapel appears to have been 

• Eugene Aram's famous murder was perpetrated within it. 
description of the scene in his " Eugene Aram." 

See Sir E. L. Bulwer's 

112 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

also the hermit's living room. The view of the exterior, and of the interior 
and ground-plan, are from Carter's "Ancient Architecture," pi. lxvii. 
Another hermitage, whose chapel is very similar to this, is at Warkworth. 
It is half-way up the cliff, on one side of a deep, romantic valley, through 
which runs the river Coquet, overhung with woods. The chapel is hewn 
out of the rock, 18 feet long by 7^ wide, with a little entrance-porch on 
the south, also hewn in the rock ; and, on the farther side, a long, narrow 

Interior View of St. Robert's Chapel. 

apartment, with a small altar at the east end, and a window looking upon 
the chapel altar. This long apartment was probably the hermit's living 
room ; but when the Earls of Northumberland endowed the hermitage for 
a chantry priest, the priest seems to have lived in a small house, with a 
garden attached, at the foot of the cliff. The chapel is groined, and has 
Gothic windows, very like that of Knaresborough. A minute description 
of this hermitage, and of the legend connected with it, is given in a poem 
called "The History of Warkworth " (4*0, 1775), and in a letter in Grose's 
"Antiquities," vol. iii., is a ground-plan of the chapel and its appurtenances. 



A view of the exterior, showing its picturesque situation, will be found 
in Heme's "Antiquities of Great Britain," pi. 9. 

There is a little cell, or oratory, called the hermitage, cut out of 
the face of a rock near Dale Abbey, Derbyshire. On the south side 
are the door and three windows ; at the east end, an altar standing 
upon a raised platform, both cut out of the rock ; there are little niches in 
the walls, and a stone seat all round.* 

There is another hermitage of three cells at Wetheral, near Carlisle, 
called Wetheral Safeguard, or St. Constantine's Cells — Wetheral Priory was 
dedicated to St. Constantine, and this hermitage seems to have belonged to 
the priory. It is not far from Wetheral 
Priory, in the face of a rock standing 
100 feet perpendicularly out of the 
river Eden, which washes its base ; 
the hill rising several hundred feet 
higher still above this rocky escarpment. 
The hermitage is at a height of 40 
feet from the river, and can only be 
approached from above by a narrow 
and difficult path down the face of the 
precipice. It consists of three square 
cells, close together, about 10 feet 
square and 8 feet high ; each with 
a short passage leading to it, which increases its total length to about 20 
feet. These passages communicate with a littie platform of rock in front 
of the cells. At a lower level than this platform, by about 7 feet, there 
is a narrow gallery built up of masonry; the door to the hermitage 
is at one end of it, so that access to the cells can only be obtained 
by means of a ladder from this gallery to the platform of rock 7 feet 
above it. In the front of the gallery are three windows, opposite to the 
three cells, to give them light, and one chimney. An engraving will be 
found in Hutchinson's " History of Cumberland," vol. i. p. 160, which 

Ground-Plan of St. Robert's Chapel. 

* See view in Stukeley's " Itin. Curios.," pi. 14. 

H4 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages, 

shows the picturesque scene — the rocky hill-side, with the river washing 
round its base, and the three windows of the hermitage, half-way up, 
peeping through the foliage ; there is also a careful plan of the cells in the 

A chapel, and a range of rooms — which communicate with one another, 
and form a tolerably commodious house of two floors, are excavated out of 
a rocky hill-side, called Blackstone Rock, which forms the bank of the 
Severn, near Bewdley, Worcestershire. A view of the exterior of the rock, 
and a plan and section of the chambers, are given both in Stukeley's 

"Itinerarium Curiosum," pis. 13 and 14, and in Nash's "History of 
Worcestershire," vol. ii. p. 48. 

At Lenton, near Nottingham, there is a chapel and a range of cells 
excavated out of the face of a semicircular sweep of rock, which crops out 
on the bank of the river Leen. The river winds round the other semicircle, 
leaving a space of greensward between the rock and the river, upon which the 
cells open. Now, the whole place is enclosed, and used as a public garden 
and bowling-green, its original features being, however, preserved with a 
praiseworthy appreciation of their interest. In former days this hermitage 
was just within the verge of the park of the royal castle of Nottingham ; it 

Hermitages. 115 

was doubtless screened by the trees of the park ; and its inmates might pace 
to and fro on their secluded grass-plot, fenced in by the rock and the river 
from every intruding foot, and yet in full view of the walls and towers of 
the castle, with the royal banner waving from its keep, and catch a glimpse 
of the populous borough, and see the parties of knights and ladies prance 
over the level meadows which stretched out to the neighbouring Trent 
like a green carpet, embroidered in spring and autumn by the purple 
crocus, which grows wild there in myriads. Stukeley, in his " Itinerarium 
Curiosum," pi. 39, gives a view and ground-plan of these curious cells. 
Carter also figures them in his " Ancient Architecture," pi. 12, and gives 
details of a Norman shaft and arch in the chapel. 

But nearly all the hermitages which we read of in the romances, or see 

P depicted in the illuminations and paintings, or find noticed in ancient 
historical documents, are substantial buildings of stone or timber. Here 
is one from folio 56 of the " History of Launcelot " (Add. 10,293) : tne 
hermit stands at the door of his house, giving his parting benediction to 
Sir Launcelot, who, with his attendant physician, is taking his leave after a 
night's sojourn at the hermitage. In the paintings of the Campo Santo, at 
Pisa (engraved in Mrs. Jameson's " Sacred and Legendary Art "), which 
represent the hermits of the Egyptian desert, some of the hermitages are 
caves, some are little houses of stone. In Caxton's " Vitas Patrum " the 
hermitages are little houses j one has a stepped gable ; another is like a 
gateway, with a room over it* They were founded and built, and often 
endowed, by the same men who founded chantries, and built churches, and 
endowed monasteries ; and from the same motives of piety, charity, or 
superstition. And the founders seem often to have retained the patronage 
of the hermitages, as of valuable benefices, in their own hands.f A hermit- 

* Suggesting the room so often found over a church porch. 

f In the year 1490, a dispute having arisen between the abbot and convent of Easby 
and the Grey Friars of Richmond, on the one part, and the burgesses of Richmond, on 
the other part, respecting the disposition of the goods of Margaret Richmond, late 
anchoress of the same town, it was at length settled that the goods should remain with 
the warden and brethren of the friars, after that her debts and the repair of the anchorage 
were defrayed, " because the said anchoress took her habit of the said friars," and that 
the abbot and convent should have the disposition of the then anchoress, A'i s oa 

1 1 6 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Age 

age was, in fact, a miniature monastery, inhabited by one religious, who 
was abbot, and prior, and convent, all in one : sometimes also by a chap- 
lain,* where the hermit was not a priest, and by several lay brethren, i.e. 
servants. It had a chapel of its own, in which divine service was performed 
daily. It had also the apartments necessary for the accommodation of 
the hermit, and his chaplain — when one lived in the hermitage — and his 
servants, and the necessary accommodation for travellers besides ; and it 
had often, perhaps generally, its court-yard and garden. 

The chapel of the hermitage seems not to have been appropriated solely 
to the performance of divine offices, but to have been made useful for 
other more secular purposes also. Indeed, the churches and chapels in 
the Middle Ages seem often to have been used for great occasions of 
a semi-religious character, when a large apartment was requisite, e.g. for 
holding councils, for judicial proceedings, and the like. Godric of Finchale, 
a hermit who lived about the time of Henry II., t had two chapels adjoin- 
ing his cell ; one he called by the name of St. John Baptist, the other after 
the Blessed Virgin. He had a kind of common room, " communis 
domus," in which he cooked his food and saw visitors; but he lived chiefly, 
day and night, in the chapel of St. John, removing his bed to the chapel 
of St. Mary at times of more solemn devotion. 

In an illumination on folio 153 of the "History of Launcelot," already 
quoted (British Mus., Add. 10,293), is a picture of King Arthur taking 

Comeston, after her decease ; and so to continue for evermore between the said abbot 
and warden, as it happens that the anchoress took her habit of religion. And that the 
burgesses shall have the nomination and free election of the said anchoress for evermore 
from time to time when it happens to be void, as they have had without time of mind. 
(Test. Ebor. ii. 115.) 

* In June 5, 1356, Edward III. granted to brother Regnier, hermit of the Chapel of 
St. Mary Magdalen, without Salop, a certain plot of waste called Shelcrosse, contiguous 
to the chapel, containing one acre, to hold the same to him and his successors, hermits 
there, for their habitation, and to find a chaplain to pray in the chapel for the king's soul, 
&c. (Owen and Blakeway's "History of Shrewsbury," vol. ii. p. 165). "Perhaps," 
say our authors, " this was the eremitical habitation in the wood of Suttona (Sutton 
being a village just without Salop), which is recorded elsewhere to have been given by 
Richard, the Dapifer of Chester, to the monks of Salop." 

t "Vita S. Godrici," published by the Surtees Society. 

Spenser s Hermit. 1 1 7 

counsel with a hermit in his hermitage. The building in which they are 
seated has a nave and aisles, a rose-window in its gable, and a bell-turret, 
and seems intended to represent the chapel of the hermitage. Again, at 
folio 107 of the same MS. is a picture of a hermit talking to a man, 
with the title, — "Ensi y come une hermites prole en une chapele de 
son hermitage," — " How a hermit conversed in the chapel of his hermitage. " 
It may, perhaps, have been in the chapel that the hermit received those 
who sought his counsel on spiritual or on secular affairs. 

In addition to the references which have already been given to illus- 
trations of the subject in the illuminations of MSS., we call the special 
attention of the student to a series of pictures illustrating a mediaeval 
story of which a hermit is the hero, in the late thirteenth century MS. 
Royal 10 E IV. ; it begins at folio 113 v., and runs on for many pages, 
and is full of interesting passages. 

We also add a few lines from Lydgate's unpublished "Life of St 
Edmund," as a typical picture of a hermit, drawn in the second quarter of 
the fifteenth century : — 

" — holy Ffremund though he were yonge of age, 
And ther he bilte a litel hermitage 
Be side a ryver with al his besy peyne, 
He and his fellawis that were in nombre tweyne. 

« * A litel chapel he dide ther edifie, 
Day be day to make in his praiere, 
In the reverence only off Marie 
And in the worshipe of her Sone deere, 
And the space fully off sevene yeere 
Hooly Ffremund, lik as it is founde, 
Leved be frut and rootes off the grounde. 

M Off frutes wilde, his story doth us telle, 
Was his repast penance for t' endure, 
To stanch his thurst drank water off the welle 
And eet acorns to sustene his nature, 
Kernelles off nods [nuts] when he myhte hem recure. 
To God alway doying reverence, 
What ever he sent took it in patience." 

And in concluding this chapter let us call to mind Spenser's description 

1 1 8 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

of a typical hermit and hermitage, while the originals still lingered in the 
living memory of the people : — 

" At length they chaunst to meet upon the way 
An aged sire, in long blacke weedes yclad, 
His feet all bare, his head all hoarie gray, 
And by his belt his booke he hanging had ; 
Sober he seemde, and very sagely sad, 
And to the ground his eyes were lowly bent, 
Simple in shew, and voide of malice bad ; 
And all the way he prayed as he went, 
And often knockt his brest as one that did repent. 

" He faire the knight saluted, louting low, 
Who faire him quited, as that courteous was ; 
And after asked him if he did know 
Of strange adventures which abroad did pas. 
'Ah ! my dear sonne,' quoth he, ' how should, alas ! 
Silly* old man, that lives in hidden cell, 
Bidding his beades all day for his trespas, 
Tidings of war and worldly trouble tell ? 
With holy father sits not with such things to mell.'f 

Quoth then that aged man, ' The way to win 

Is wisely to advise. Now day is spent, 

Therefore with me ye may take up your in 

For this same night.' The knight was well content; 

So with that godly father to his home he went. 

'* A little lowly hermitage it was, 
Down in a dale, hard by a forest's side, 
Far from resort of people that did pass 
In traveill to and froe ; a little wyde 
There was an holy chappell edifyde, 
Wherein the hermite dewly wont to say 
His holy things, each morne and eventyde ; 
Hereby a chrystall streame did gently play, 
Which from a sacred fountaine welled forth alway. 

" Arrived there, the little house they fill ; 
Ne look for entertainment where none was ; 
Rest is their feast, and all things at their will ; 
The noblest mind the best contentment has. 
With fair discourse the evening so they pas ; 
For that old man of pleasing words had store, 
And well could file his tongue as smooth as glas ; 

• Simple. t Meddle. 

A Modern Hermit. 119 

He told of saintes and popes, and evermore 
He strowd an Ave- Mary after and before."* 

Faery Queen, i. i, 29, 33, 34, 35. 

* Since the above was written, the writer has had an opportunity of visiting a 
hermitage very like those at Warkworth, Wetheral, Bewdley, and Lenton, still in use 
and habitation. It is in the parish of Limay, near Mantes, a pretty little town on the 
railway between Rouen and Paris. Nearly at the top of a vine-clad hill, on the north of 
the valley of the Seine, in which Mantes is situated, a low face of rock crops out. In 
this rock have been excavated a chapel, a sacristy, and a living-room for the hermit ; and 
the present hermit has had a long refectory added to his establishment, in which to give 
his annual dinner to the people who come here, one day in the year, in considerable 
numbers, on pilgrimage. The chapel differs from those which we have described in the 
text in being larger and ruder ; it is so wide that its rocky roof is supported by two rows 
of rude pillars, left standing for that purpose by the excavators. There is an altar at the 
east end. At the west end is a representation of the Entombment ; the figure of our 
Lord, lying as if it had become rigid in the midst of the writhing of his agony, is not 
without a rude force of expression. One of the group of figures standing about the 
tomb has a late thirteenth-century head of a saint placed upon the body of a Roman soldier 
of the Renaissance period. There is a grave-stone with an incised cross and inscription 
beside the tomb ; and in the niche on the north side is a recumbent monumental effigy 
of stone, with the head and hands in white glazed pottery. But whether these things 
were originally placed in the hermitage, or whether they are waifs and strays from neigh- 
bouring churches, brought here as to an ecclesiastical peep-show, it is hard to determine ; 
the profusion of other incongruous odds and ends of ecclesiastical relics and fineries, with 
which the whole place is furnished, inclines one to the latter conjecture. There is a bell- 
turret built on the rock over the chapel, and a chimney peeps through the hill-side, over 
the sacristy fireplace. The platform in front of the hermitage is walled in, and there is a 
little garden on the hill above. The cure - of Limay performs service here on certain 
days in the year. The hermit will disappoint those who desire to see a modern 
example of 

" An aged sire, in long black weedes yclad, 
His feet all bare, his beard all hoarie gray." 

He is an aged sire, seventy-four years old ; but tor the rest, he is simply a litde, 
withered, old French peasant, in a blue blouse and wooden sabots. He passes his days 
here in solitude, unless when a rare party of visitors ring at his little bell, and, after due 
inspection through his grille, are admitted to peep about his chapel and his grotto, and 
to share his fine view of the valley shut in by vine-clad hills, and the Seine winding 
through the flat meadows, and the clean, pretty town of Mantes le jolie in the middle, 
with its long bridge and its cathedral-like church. Whether he spends his time 

" Bidding his beades all day for his trespas," 

we did not inquire ; but he finds the hours lonely. The good cure of Limay wishes him 
to sleep in his hermitage, but, like the hermit-priest of Warkworth, he prefers sleeping 
ki the village at the foot of the hilL 



[ ND now we proceed to speak more particularly of the recluses. 
The old legend tells us that John the Hermit, the contemporary 
of St. Anthony, would hold communication with no man except 
through the window of his cell.* But the recluses of more modern days 
were not content to quote John the Egyptian as their founder. As the 
Carmelite friars claimed Elijah, so the recluses, at least the female 
recluses, looked up to Judith as the foundress of their mode of life, and 
patroness of their order. 

Mabillon tells us that the first who made any formal rule for recluses was 
one Grimlac, who lived about 900 a.d. The principal regulations of his 
rule are, that the candidate for reclusion, if a monk, should signify his 
intention a year beforehand, and during the interval should continue to 
live among his brethren. If not already a monk, the period of probation 
was doubled. The leave of the bishop of the diocese was to be first 
obtained, and if the candidate were a monk, the leave of his abbot and 
convent also. When he had entered his cell, the bishop was to put his 
seal upon the door, which was never again to be opened,f unless for the 

* One of the little hermitages represented in the Campo Santo series of paintings of 
the old Egyptian hermit-saints (engraved in Mrs. Jameson's " Legends of the Monastic 
Orders ") has a little grated window, through which the hermit within (probably this 
John) is talking with another outside. 

t That recluses did, however, sometimes quit their cells on a great emergency, we 
learn from the Legenda of Richard of Hampole already quoted, where we are told that 
at his death Dame Margaret Kyrkley, the recluse of Anderby, on hearing of the saint's 
death, hastened to Hampole to be present at his funeral. 

Female Recluses. 1 2 1 

help of the recluse in time of sickness or on the approach of death. Suc- 
cessive councils published canons to regulate this kind of life. That of 
Millo, in 692, repeats in substance the rule of Grimlac. That of Frankfort, 
in 787, refers to the recluses. The synod of Richard de la Wich, Bishop 
of Chichester, a.d. 1246, makes some canons concerning them : " Also we 
ordain to recluses that they shall not receive or keep any person in their 
houses concerning whom any sinister suspicion might arise. Also that 
they have narrow and proper windows ; and we permit them to have secret 
communication with those persons only whose gravity and honesty do not 
admit of suspicion." * 

Towards the end of the twelfth century a rule for anchorites was written 
by Bishop Richard Pooref of Chichester, and afterwards of Salisbury, who 
died a.d. 1237, which throws abundant light upon their mode of life; for 
it is not merely a brief code of the regulations obligatory upon them, but it 
is a book of paternal counsels, which enters at great length, and in minute 
detail, into the circumstances of the recluse life, and will be of great use to 
us in the subsequent part of this chapter. 

There were doubtless different degrees of austerity among the recluses ; 
but, on the whole, we must banish from our minds the popular J idea that 
they inhabited a living grave, and lived a life of the extremest mortification. 
Doubtless there were instances in which religious enthusiasm led the 

• Wilkins's " Concilia," i. 693. 

f Several MSS. of this rule are known under different names. Fosbroke quotes one 
as the rule of Simon de Gandavo (or Simon of Ghent), in Cott. MS. Nero A xiv.; 
another in Bennet College, Cambridge ; and another under the name of Alfred Reeveslev. 
See Fosbroke's " British Monachism," pp. 374-5. The various copies, indeed, seem to 
differ considerably, but to be all derived from the work ascribed to Bishop Poore. All 
these books are addressed to female recluses, which is a confirmation of the opinion 
which we have before expressed, that the majority of the recluses were women. 

J Thus the player-queen in Hamlet, iii. 2 : — 

" Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light ! 
Sport and repose lock from me, day, and night ! 
To desperation turn my trust and hope ! 
An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope ! 
Each opposite, that blanks the face of joy, 
Meet what I would have well, and it destroy," &c. 

122 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

recluse into frightful and inhuman self-torture, like that of Thaysis, in the 
" Golden Legend :" " She went to the place whiche th' abbot had assygned 
to her, and there was a monasterye of vyrgyns ; and there he closed her 
in a celle, and sealed the door with led. And the celle was lytyll and 
strayte, and but one lytell wyndowe open, by whyche was mynistred to her 
poor lyvinge ; for the abbot commanded that they shold gyve to her a 
lytell brede and water."* Thaysis submitted to it at the command of 
Abbot Pafnucius, as penance for a sinful life, in the early days of Egyptian 
austerity; and now and then throughout the subsequent ages the self- 
hatred of an earnest, impassioned nature, suddenly roused to a feeling of 
exceeding sinfulness ; the remorse of a wild, strong spirit, conscious of great 
crimes ; or the enthusiasm of a weak mind and morbid conscience, might 
urge men and women to such self-revenges, to such penances, as these. 
Bishop Poore gives us episodically a pathetic example, which our readers 
will thank us for repeating here. " Nothing is ever so hard that love doth 
not make tender, and soft, and sweet. Love maketh all things easy. 
What do men and women endure for false love, and would endure more I 
And what is more to be wondered at is, that love which is faithful and 
true, and sweeter than any other love, doth not overmaster us as doth 
sinful love ! Yet I know a man who weareth at the same time both a 
heavy cuirass f and haircloth, bound with iron round the middle too, and 
his arms with broad and thick bands, so that to bear the sweat of it is 
severe suffering. He fasteth, he watcheth, he laboureth, and, Christ 
knoweth, he complaineth, and saith that it doth not oppress him ; and 
often asks me to teach him something wherewith he might give his body 
pain. God knoweth that he, the most sorrowful of men, weepeth to me, 
and saith that God hath quite forgotten him, because He sendeth him no 
great sickness ; whatever is bitter seems sweet to him for our Lord's sake. 
God knoweth love doth this, because, as he often saith to me, he could 
never love God the less for any evil thing that He might do to him, even 

* A cell in the north-west angle of Edington Abbey Church, Wilts, seems to be of 
this kind. 

t The wearing a cuirass, or hauberk of chain mail, next the skin became a noted form 
of self-torture; those who undertook it were called Loricati. 

Hie Reclusorium. 123 

were He to cast him into hell with those that perish. And if any believe 
any such thing of him, he is more confounded than a thief taken with his 
theft. I know also a woman of like mind that suffereth little less. And 
what remaineth but to thank God for the strength that He giveth them ; 
and let us humbly acknowledge our own weakness, and love their merit, 
and thus it becomes our own. For as St. Gregory says, love is of so great 
power that it maketh the merit of others our own, without labour." But 
though powerful motives and great force of character might enable an 
individual here and there to persevere with such austerities, when the 
severities of the recluse life had to be reduced to rule and system, and 
when a succession of occupants had to be found for the vacant anchor- 
holds, ordinary human nature revolted from these unnatural austerities, 
and the common sense of mankind easily granted a tacit dispensation from 
them ; and the recluse life was speedily toned down in practice to a life 
which a religiously-minded person, especially one who had been wounded 
and worsted in the battle of life, might gladly embrace and easily endure. 

Usually, even where the cell consisted of a single room, it was large 
enough for the comfortable abode of a single inmate, and it was not desti- 
tute of such furnishing as comfort required. But it was not unusual for the 
cell to be in fact a house of several apartments, with a garden attached : 
and it would seem that the technical " cell " within which the recluse was 
immured, included house and garden, and everything within the boundary 
wall.* It is true that many of the recluses lived entirely, and perhaps all 

tly, upon the alms of pious and charitable people. An alms-box was 
lung up to receive contributions, as appears from " Piers Ploughman," — 
" In ancres there a box hangeth." 

And in the extracts hereafter given from the "Ancren Riewle," we shall 
find several allusions to the giving of alms to recluses as a usual custom. 
But it was the bishop's duty, before giving license for the building of a 
reclusorium, to satisfy himself that there would be, either from alms or from 
an endowment, a sufficient maintenance for the recluse. Practically, they 

* The cell of a Carthusian monk, as we have stated, consisted of a little house of three 
apartments and a little garden r*ithin an inclosure wall. 

124 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

do not seem often to have been in want ; they were restricted as to the 
times when they might eat flesh-meat, but otherwise their abstemiousness 
depended upon their own religious feeling on the subject; and the only 
check upon excess was in their own moderation. They occupied them- 
selves, besides their frequent devotions, in reading, writing, illuminating, 
and needlework; and though the recluses attached to some monasteries 
seem to have been under an obligation of silence, yet in the usual case the 
recluse held a perpetual levee at the open window, and gossiping and scandal 

Sir Percival at the Reclusorium. 

appear to have been among her besetting sins. It will be our business to 
verify and further to illustrate this general sketch of the recluse life. 

And, first, let us speak more in detail of their habitations. The reclu- 
sorium, or anchorhold, seems sometimes to have been, like the hermitage, 
a house of timber or stone, or a grotto in a solitary place. In Sir T. 
Mallory's " Prince Arthur " we are introduced to one of these, which 
afforded all the appliances for lodging and entertaining even male guests. 
We read : — " Sir Percival returned again unto the recluse, where he deemed 
to have tidings of that knight which Sir Launcelot followed. And so he 
kneeled at her window, and anon the recluse opened it, and asked Sir 
Percival what he would. ' Madam,' said he, ' I am a knight of King 

The Reclusorium. 125 

Arthur's court, and my name is Sir Percival de Galis.' So when the 
recluse heard his name, she made passing great joy of him, for greatly she 
loved him before all other knights of the world ; and so of right she ought 
to do, for she was his aunt. And then she commanded that the gates 
should be opened to him, and then Sir Percival had all the cheer that she 
might make him, and all that was in her power was at his commandment" 
But it does not seem that she entertained him in person ; for the story 
continues that " on the morrow Sir Percival went unto the recluse," i.e., to 
her little audience-window, to propound his question, " if she knew that 
knight with the white shield." Opposite is a woodcut of a picture in the 
MS. " History of Sir Launcelot" (Royal 14, E. III. folio 101 v.), entitled, 
■ Ensi q Percheva retourna a la rencluse qui estait en son hermitage." * 

In the case of these large remote anchorholds, the recluse must have had 
a chaplain to come and say mass for her every day in the chapel of her 
hermitage.t But in the vast majority of cases, anchorholds were attached 
to a church either of a religious house, or of a town, or of a village ; and in 
these situations they appear to have been much more numerous than is 
at all suspected by those who have not inquired into this little-known 
portion of our mediaeval antiquities. Very many of our village churches 
had a recluse living within or beside them, and it will, perhaps, especially 
surprise the majority of our readers to learn that these recluses were spe- 
cially numerous in the mediaeval towns.} The proofs of this fact are abun- 
dant ; here are some. Henry, Lord Scrope, of Masham, by will, dated 
23rd June, 1 41 5, bequeathed to every anchoret § and recluse dwelling in 
London or its suburbs 6s. 8d. ; also to every anchoret and recluse dwelling 
in York and its suburbs 6s. 8d. From other sources we learn more about 

* This very same picture is given also in another MS. of about the same date, marked 
Add. 10,294, at f° uo x 4- 

f As was probably the case at Warkworth, the hermit living in the hermitage, while 
the chantry priest lived in the house at the foot of the bill, 
X " Eremites that inhabiten 
By the highways, 
And in boroughs among brewers." 

Piers Ploughman's Vision. 
\ Probably " anchoret " means male, and " recluse " female recluse. 

126 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

these York anchorets and recluses. The will of Adam Wigan, rector of 
St. Saviour, York (April 20, 1433, a.d.)*, leaves 3s. $d. to Dan John, 
who dwelt in the Chapel of St. Martin, within the parish of St. Saviour. 
The female recluses of York were three in number in the year 1433, as we 
learn from the will of Margaret, relict of Nicholas Blackburne : t " Lego 
tribus reclusis Ebor.," ijj-. Where their cells were situated we learn 
from the will of Richard Rupell (a.d. 1435 t)> wn0 bequeaths to the 
recluse in the cemetery of the Church of St. Margaret, York, five marks ; 
and to the recluse in the cemetery of St. Helen, in Fishergate, five marks; 
and to the recluse in the cemetery of All Saints, in North Street, York, five 
marks. They are also all three mentioned in the will of Adam Wigan, 
who leaves to the anchorite enclosed in Fishergate 2s. ; to her enclosed 
near the church of St. Margaret 2s. ; to her enclosed in North Street, 
near the Church of All Saints, 2s. The will of Lady Margaret Stapelton, 
1465 a.d.,§ mentions anchorites in Watergate and Fishergate, in the 
suburbs of York, and in another place the anchorite of the nunnery of 
St. Clement, York. At Lincoln, also, we are able to trace a similar suc- 
cession of anchoresses. In 1383 a.d., William de Belay, of Lincoln, left to 
an anchoress named Isabella, who dwelt in the Church of the Holy Trinity, 
in Wigford, within the city of Lincoln, 13s. 4*/. In 1391, John de Sutton 
left her 20s. ; in 1374, John de Ramsay left her i2d. Besides these she 
had numerous other legacies from citizens. In 1453, an anchoress named 
Matilda supplied the place of Isabella, who we may suppose had long 
since gone to her reward. In that year John Tilney — one of the Tilneys 
of Boston — left " Domine Matilde incluse infra ecclesiam sanctae Trinitatis 
ad gressus in civitate Lincoln, v)s. viij<£" In 1502, Master John Watson, 
a chaplain in Master Robert Flemyng's chantry, left xi)d. to the " ankers " 
at the Greese foot. This Church of the Holy Trinity "ad gressus" 
seems to have been for a long period the abode of a female recluse.|| 
The will of Roger Eston, rector of Richmond, Yorkshire, a.d. 1446, 
also mentions the recluses in the city of York and its suburbs. The 

• Test. Vetust., ii. 25. t Ibid. ii. 47. % Ibid. ii. 56. § Ibid. ii. 271. 

jj Note p. 87 to " Instructions for Parish Priests," Early English Text Society. 

Female Recluses. 127 

will of Adam Wilson also mentions Lady Agnes, enclosed at (apud) 
the parish church of Thorganby, and anchorites (female) at Beston and 
Pontefract. Sir Hugh Willoughby, of Wollaton, in 1463 bequeathed 
6s. $d. to the anchoress of Nottingham.* The will of Lady Joan 
Wombewell, a.d. i454,t also mentions the anchoress of Beyston. 
The will of John Brompton, of Beverley, a.d. 1444,^ bequeaths 3s. 4*/. 
to the recluse by the Church of St Giles, and is. 6d. to anchorite at 
the friary of St. Nicholas of Beverley. Roger Eston also leaves a 
bequest to the anchorite of his parish of Richmond, respecting whom 
the editor gives a note whose substance is given elsewhere. In a will 
of the fifteenth century § we have a bequest " to the ancher in the wall 
beside Bishopsgate, London." || In the will of St. Richard, Bishop of 
Chichester, «j we have bequests to Friar Humphrey, the recluse of Pageham, 
to the recluse of Hogton, to the recluse of Stopeham, to the recluse of 
Herringham; and in the will of Walter de Suffield, Bishop of Norwich, 
bequests to " anchers " and recluses in his diocese, and especially to his 
niece Ela, in reclusorio at Massingham.** 

Among the other notices which we have of solitaries living in towns, 
Lydgate mentions one in the town of Wakefield. Morant says there was 
one in Holy Trinity churchyard, Colchester. The episcopal registers of 
Lichfield show that there was an anchorage for several female recluses in 
the churchyard of St. George's Chapel, Shrewsbury. The will of Henry, 
Lord Scrope, already quoted, leaves iooj. and the pair of beads which the 
testator was accustomed to use to the anchorite of Westminster : it was his 
predecessor, doubtless, who is mentioned in the time of Richard II. : 
when the young king was going to meet Wat Tyler in Smithfield, he went 
to Westminster Abbey, " then to the church, and so to the high altar, 
where he devoutedly prayed and offered ; after which he spake with the 

* Test. Vetust., ii. 131. f Ibid. 178. % !bid. "• 98- § Ibid. 356. 

I Other bequests to recluses occur in the will of Henry U., to the recluses {incluses) 
of Jerusalem, England, and Normandy. 

% Sussex Archaeol. Coll., i. p. 174. 

** Blomfield's " Norfolk," ii. pp. 347-8. See also the bequests to the Norwich 
recluses, infra. 

128 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

anchore, to whom he confessed himself."* Lord Scrope's will goes on to 
bequeath 405-. to Robert, the recluse of Beverley ; 13^. ^d. each to the 
anchorets of Stafford, of Kurkebeck, of Wath, of Peasholme, near York, of 
Kirby, Thorganby, near Colingworth, of Leek, near Upsale, of Gainsburgh, 
of Kneesall, near South Well, of Dartford, of Stamford, living in the parish 
church there ; to Thomas, the chaplain dwelling continually in the church 
of St. Nicholas, Gloucester ; to Elizabeth, late servant to the anchoret of 
Hamphole ; and to the recluse in the house of the Dominicans at New- 
castle j and also 6s. 8d. to every other anchorite and anchoritess that could 
be easily found within three months of his decease. 

We have already had occasion to mention that there were several female 
recluses, in addition to the male solitaries, in the churchyards of the then 
great city of Norwich. The particulars which that laborious antiquary, 
Blomfield, has collected together respecting several of them will throw a 
little additional light upon our subject, and fill up still further the out- 
lines of the picture which we are engaged in painting. 

There was a hermitage in the churchyard of St. Julian, Norwich, which 
was inhabited by a succession of anchoresses, some of whose names Blom- 
field records: — Dame Agnes, in 1472; Dame Elizabeth Scot, in 1481; 
Lady Elizabeth, in 1510; Dame Agnes Edrigge, in 1524. The Lady 
Julian, who was the anchoress in 1393, is said to have had two servants to 
attend her in her old age. " She was esteemed of great holiness. Mr. 
Francis Peck had a vellum MS. containing an account of her visions." 
Blomfield says that the foundations of the anchorage might still be seen in 
his time, on the east side of St. Julian's churchyard. There was also an 
anchorage in St. Ethelred's churchyard, which was rebuilt in 1305, and an 
anchor continually dwelt there till the Reformation, when it was pulled 
down, and the grange, or tithe-barn, at Brakendale was built with its 
timber; so that it must have been a timber house of some magnitude. 
Also in St. Edward's churchyard, joining to the church on the north side, 
was a cell, whose ruins were still visible in Blomfield's time, and most per- 
sons who died in Norwich left small sums towards its maintenance. In 

* Stow's Chronicle, p. 559. 

Female Recluses. 129 

1428 Lady Joan was anchoress here, to whom Walter Ledman left 20J., 
and AfOd. to each of her servants. In 1458, Dame Anneys Kite was the 
recluse here; in 1516, Margaret Norman, widow, was buried here, and 
gave a legacy to the lady anchoress by the church. St. John the Evan- 
gelist's Church, in Southgate, was, about a.d. 1300, annexed to the parish 
of St. Peter per Montergate, and the Grey Friars bought the site ; they 
pulled down the whole building, except a small part left for an anchorage, 
in which they placed an anchor, to whom they assigned part of the church- 
yard for his garden. Also there used ancientry to be a recluse dwelling in 
a little cell joining to the north side of the tower of St. John the Baptist's 
Church, Timber Hill, but it was down before the Dissolution. Also there 
was an anchor, or hermit, who had an anchorage in or adjoining to All 
Saints' Church. Also in Henry III.'s time a recluse dwelt in the church- 
yard of St. John the Baptist, and the Holy Sepulchre, in Ber Street. In 
the monastery of the Carmelites, or White Friars, at Norwich, there were 
two anchorages — one for a man, who was admitted brother of the house, 
and another for a woman, who was admitted sister thereof. The latter 
was under the chapel of the Holy Cross, which was still standing in Blom- 
field's time, though converted into dwelling-houses. The former stood by 
St. Martin's Bridge, on the east side of the street, and had a small garden 
to it, which ran down to the river. In 1442, December 2nd, the Lady 
Emma, recluse, or anchoress, and religious sister of the Carmelite order, 
was buried in their church. In 1443, Thomas Scroope was anchorite in 
this house. In 1465, Brother John Castleacre, a priest, was anchorite. 
In 1494 there were legacies given to the anchor of the White Friars. This 
Thomas Scroope was originally a Benedictine monk; in 1430 he became 
anchorite here (being received a brother of the Carmelite order), and led 
an anchorite's life for many years, seldom going out of his cell but when he 
preached; about 1446 Pope Eugenius made him Bishop of Down, which 
see he afterwards resigned, and came again to his convent, and became 
suffragan to the Bishop of Norwich. He died, and was buried at Lowes- 
toft, being near a hundred years old. 

The document which we are about to quote from Whittaker's " History 
of Whalley" (pp. 72 and 77), illustrates many points in the history of the-* 


130 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

anchorholds. The anchorage therein mentioned was built in a parish 
churchyard, it depended upon a monastery, and was endowed with an 
allowance in money and kind from the monastery ; it was founded for two 
recluses ; they had a chaplain and servants ; and the patronage was retained 
by the founder. The document will also give us some very curious and 
minute details of the domestic economy of the recluse life ; and, lastly, it 
will give us an historical proof that the assertions of the contemporary 
satirists, of the laxity* with which the vows were sometimes kept, were not 
without foundation. 

" In 1349, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, granted in trust to the abbot and 
convent of Whalley rather large endowments to support two recluses 
(women) in a certain place within the churchyard of the parish church of 
Whalley, and two women servants to attend them, there to pray for the 
soul of the duke, &c; to find them seventeen ordinary loaves, and seven 
inferior loaves, eight gallons of better beer, and 3d. per week ; and yearly 
ten large stock-fish, one bushel of oatmeal, one of rye, two gallons of oil 
for lamps, one pound of tallow for candles, six loads of turf, and one load of 
faggots ; also to repair their habitations ; and to find a chaplain to say mass 
in the chapel of these recluses daily ; their successors to be nominated 
by the duke and his heirs. On July 6, 15th Henry VI., the king nominated 
Isole de Heton, widow, to be an anachorita for life, in loco ad hoc ordinate 
juxta ecclesiam parochialem de Whalley. Isole, however, grew tired of the 
solitary life, and quitted it ; for afterwards a representation was made to 
the king that ' divers that had been anchores and recluses in the seyd place 
aforetyme, have broken oute of the seyd place wherein they were reclusyd, 
and departyd therefrom wythout any reconsilyation ;' and that Isole tie 
Heton had broken out two years before, and was not willing to return ; 
and that divers of the women that had been servants there had been with 
child. So Henry VI. dissolved the hermitage, and appointed instead two 
chaplains to say mass daily, &c." Whittaker thinks that the hermitage 
occupied the site of some cottages on the west side of the church- 

* In the " Ancren Richie," p. 129, we read, "Who can with more facility commit 
sin than the false recluse ? " 

Female Recluses, 13 1 

yard, which opened into the churchyard until he had the doors walled 

There was a similar hermitage for several female recluses in the church- 
yard of St. Romauld, Shrewsbury, as we learn from a document among the 
Bishop of Lichfield's registers,* in which he directs the Dean of St Chadd, 
or his procurator, to enclose Isolda de Hungerford an anchorite in the 
houses of the churchyard of St. Romauld, where the other anchorites 
dwell. Also in the same registry there is a precept, dated Feb. 1, 13 10, 
from Walter de Langton, Bishop, to Emma Sprenghose, admitting her an 
anchorite in the houses of the churchyard of St. George's Chapel, Salop, 
and he appoints the archdeacon to enclose her. Another license from 
Roger, Bishop of Lichfield, dated 1362, to Robert de Worthin, permitting 
him, on the nomination of Queen Isabella, to serve God in the reclusorium 
built adjoining (juxta) the chapel of St John Baptist in the city of 
Coventry, has been published in extenso by Dugdale, and we transcribe it 
for the benefit of the curious. f Thomas Hearne has printed an Episcopal 
Commission, dated 1402, for enclosing John Cherde, a monk of Ford 
Abbey. Burnett's " History of Bristol " mentions a commission opened 
by Bishop William of Wykham, in August, 1403, for enclosing Lucy de 
Newchurch, an anchoritess in the hermitage of St. Brendon in Bristol. 
Richard Francis, an ankret, is spoken of as inter quatuor parietes pro christi 
inciusus in Langtoft's " Chronicle," ij. 625. 

* Owen and Blakeway's " History of Shrewsbury." 

t " Rogerus, &c, dclecto in Christo filio Roberto de Worthin, cap. salutem, &c. 
Precipue devotionis affectum, quern ad serviendum Deo in reclusorio juxta capellam Sancti 
Joh. Babtiste in civitate Coventriensi constructo, et spretis mundi deliciis et ipsius vagis 
discurribus contemptis, habere te asseres, propensius intuentes, ac volentes te, considera- 
tione nobilis domine, domine Isabelle Regine Anglie nobis pro te supplicante in hujus 
laudabili proposito confovere, ut in prefato reclusorio morari possis, et recludi et vitam 
tuam in eodam ducere in tui laudibus Redemptoris, licentiam tibi quantum in nobis est 
concedi per presentes, quibus sigillum nostrum duximus apponendum. Dat apud Hey. 
wood, 5 Kal. Dec. m.d. a.d. mccclxii, et consecrationis nostra tricessimo sexto."— 
Dugdale's Warwickshire, 2nd Edit., p. 193. 



UST as in a monastery, though it might be large or small in 
magnitude, simple or gorgeous in style, with more or fewer 
offices and appendages, according to the number and wealth 
of the establishment, yet there was always a certain suite of conventual 
buildings, church, chapter refectory, dormitory, &c, arranged in a certain 
order, which formed the cloister; and this cloister was the nucleus of 
all the rest of the buildings of the establishment ; so, in a reclusorium, 
or anchorhold, there was always a " cell " of a certain construction, 
to which all things else, parlours or chapels, apartments for servants 
and guests, yards and gardens, were accidental appendages. Bader's 
rule for recluses in Bavaria* describes the dimensions and plan of the 
cell minutely ; the domus indusi was to be 12 feet long by as many 
broad, and was to have three windows — one towards the choir (of the 
church to which it was attached), through which he might receive the 
Holy Sacrament ; another on the opposite side, through which he might 
receive his victuals ; and a third to give light, which last ought always 
to be closed with glass or horn. 

The reader will have already gathered from the preceding extracts that 
the reclusorium was sometimes a house of timber or stone within the 
churchyard, and most usually adjoining the church itself. At the west end 
of Laindon Church, Essex, there is a unique erection of timber, of which 
we here give a representation. It has been modernised in appearance by 

* Fosbroke's " British Monachism," p. 372. 

The Reclusorium. 133 

the insertion of windows and doors ; and there are no architectural details 
of a character to reveal with certainty its date, but in its mode of construc- 
tion — the massive timbers being placed close together — and in its general 
appearance, there is an air of considerable antiquity. It is improbable 
that a house would be erected in such a situation after the Reforma- 
tion, and it accords generally with the descriptions of a recluse house. 
Probably, however, many of the anchorholds attached to churches were 
of smaller dimensions; sometimes, perhaps, only a single little timber 

Laindon Church, Essex. 

apartment on the ground floor, or sometimes probably raised upon an 
under croft, according to a common custom in mediaeval domestic buildings. 
Very probably some of those little windows which occur in many of our 
churches, in various situations, at various heights, and which, under the 
name of " low side windows," have formed the subject of so much discus- 
sion among ecclesiologists, may have been the windows of such anchor- 
holds. The peculiarity of these windows is that they are sometimes merely 
a square opening, which originally was not glazed, but closed with a 

134 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

shutter; sometimes a small glazed window, in a position where it was 
clearly not intended to light the church generally ; sometimes a window 
has a stone transom across, and the upper part is glazed, while the lower 
part is closed only by a shutter. It is clear that some of these may have 
served to enable the anchorite, living in a cell outside the church, to see 
the altar. It seems to have been such a window which is alluded to 
in the following incident from Mallory's " Prince Arthur : " — " Then Sir 
Launcelot armed him and took his horse, and as he rode that way he 
saw a chapel where was a recluse, which had a window that she might see 

Reclusorvum, or Anchorhold, at Rettenden, £ssex. 

up to the altar ; and all aloud she called Sir Launcelot, because he seemed 

a knight arrant And (after a long conversation) she commanded 

Launcelot to dinner." In the late thirteenth-century MS., Royal 10 E. 
IV. at f. 181, is a representation of a recluse-house, in which, besides two 
two-light arched windows high up in the wall, there is a smaller square 
" low side window " very distinctly shown. Others of these low side 
windows may have been for the use of wooden anchorholds built 
within the church, combining two of the usual three windows of the 
ceil, viz., the one to give light, and the one through which to receive 

T/ie Reclusorium. 135 

food and communicate with the outer world. There is an txichorhold 
still remaining in a tolerably unmutilated state at Rettenden, Essex. 
It is a stone building of fifteenth-century date, of two stories, adjoining 
the north side of the chancel. It is entered by a rather elaborately 
moulded doorway from the chanceL The lower story is now used 
as a vestry, and is lighted by a modern window broken through its 
east wall ; but it is described as having been a dark room, and there is 
no trace of any original window. In the north wall, and towards the 
east, is a bracket, such as would hold a small statue or a lamp. In the 
west side of this room, on the left immediately on entering it from the 
chancel, is the door of a stone winding stair (built up in the nave aisle, 
but now screened towards the aisle by a very large monument), which 
gives access to the upper story. This story consists of a room which very 
exactly agrees with the description of a recluse's cell (see opposite wood- 
cut). On the south side are two arched niches, in which are stone 
benches, and the back of the easternmost of these niches is pierced by a 
small arched window, now blocked up, which looked down upon the altar. 
On the north side is a chimney, now filled with a modern fireplace, but 
the chimney is a part of the original building; and westward of the 
chimney is a small square opening, now filled with modern glazing, but the 
hook upon which the original shutter hung still remains. This window is 
not splayed in the usual mediaeval manner, but is recessed in such a way 
as to allow the head of a person to look out, and especially down, with 
facility. On the exterior this window is about 10 feet from the ground. 
In this respect it resembles the situation of a low side window in Prior 
Crawden's Chapel, Ely Cathedral,* which is on the first floor, having a 
room, lighted only by narrow slits, beneath it ; and at the Sainte Chapelle, 
in Paris, which also has an undercroft, there is a similar example of a side 
window, at a still greater height from the ground. The east side of the 
Rettenden reclusorium has now a modern window, probably occupying the 
place of the original window which gave light to the cell. The stair-turret 
at the top of the winding staircase, seems to have been intended to serve 

* Engraved in the Archaeological Journal, iv. p. 320. 

136 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

for a little closet : it obtained some light through a small loop which looked 
out into the north aisle of the church ; the wall on the north side of it is 
recessed so as to form a shelf, and a square slab of stone, which looks like 
a portion of a thirteenth-century coffin-stone, is laid upon the top of the 
newel, and fitted into the wall, so as to form another shelf or little table. 

At East Horndon Church, Essex, there are two transept-like projections 
from the nave. In the one on the south there is a monumental niche in 
the south wall, upon the back of which are the indents of the brasses of a 
man and wife and several children ; and there is a tradition, with which 
these indents are altogether inconsistent, that the heart of the unfortunate 
Queen Anne Bullen is interred therein. Over this is a chamber, open to 
the nave, and now used as a gallery, approached by a modern wooden 
stair; and there is a projection outside which looks like a chimney, 
carried out from this floor upwards. The transeptal projection on the 
north side is very similar in plan. On the ground floor there is a wide, 
shallow, cinque-foil headed niche (partly blocked) in the east wall ; and 
there is a wainscot ceiling, very neatly divided into rectangular panels by 
moulded ribs of the date of about Henry VIII. The existence of the 
chamber above was unknown until the present rector discovered a door- 
way in the east wall of the ground floor, which, on being opened, gave 
access to a stone staircase behind the east wall, which led up into a first- 
floor chamber, about 12 feet from east to west, and 8 feet from north 
to south : the birds had had access to it through an unglazed window in 
the north wall for an unknown period, and it was half filled with their 
nests; the floor planks were quite decayed. There is no trace of a 
chimney here. It is now opened out to the nave to form a gallery. 
Though we do not find in these two first-floor chambers the arrangements 
which could satisfy us that they were recluse cells, yet it is very probable 
that they were habitable chambers, inhabited, if not by recluses, perhaps 
by chantry priests, serving chantry chapels of the Tyrrells. 

Mr. M. H. Bloxam, in an interesting paper in the Transactions of the 
Lincoln Diocesan Architectural Society, mentions several other anchor- 
holds : — " Adjoining the little mountain church of S. Patricio, about five 
miles from Crickhowel, South Wales, is an attached building or cell. It 

The Reclusorium. 137 

contains on the east side a stone altar, above which is a small window, now 
blocked up, which looked towards the altar of the church ; but there was no 
other internal communication between this cell and the church, to the west 
end of which it is annexed ; it appears as if destined for a recluse who was 
also a priest" Mr. Bloxam mentions some other examples, very much 
resembling the one described at Rettenden. The north transept of 
Clifton Campville Church, Staffordshire, a structure of the fourteenth 
century, is vaulted and groined with stone ; it measures 17 feet from north 
to south, and 1 2 feet from east to west. Over this is a loft or chamber, 
apparently an anchorhold or domus inclusi, access to which is obtained by 
means of a newell staircase in the south-east angle, from a doorway at the 
north-east angle of the chancel. A small window on the south side of 
this chamber, now blocked up, afforded a view into the interior of the 
church. The roof of this chamber has been lowered, and all the windows 
blocked up. 

" On the north side of the chancel of Chipping Norton Church, Oxford- 
shire, is a revestry which still contains an ancient stone altar, with its 
appurtenances, viz., a piscina in the wall on the north side, and a bracket 
for an image projecting from the east wall, north of the altar. Over this 
revestry is a loft or chamber, to which access is obtained by means of a 
staircase in the north-west angle. Apertures in the wall enabled the 
recluse, probably a priest, here dwelling, to overlook the chancel and north 
aisle of the church. 

" Adjoining the north side of the chancel of Warmington Church, War- 
wickshire, is a revestry, entered through an ogee-headed doorway in the 
north wall of the chancel, down a descent of three steps. This revestry 
contains an ancient stone altar, projecting from a square-headed window 
in the east wall, and near the altar, in the same wall, is a piscina. In the 
south-west angle of this revestry is a flight of stone steps, leading up to a 
chamber or loft. This chamber contains, in the west wall, a fire-place, in 
the north-west angle a retiring-closet, or jakes, and in the south wall a 
small pointed window, of decorated character, through which the high-altar 
in the chancel might be viewed. In the north wall there appears to have 
been a pointed window, filled with decorated tracery, and in the east wall 

138 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

is another decorated window. This is one of the most interesting and 
complete specimens of the domus indusi I have met with."* 

The chamber which is so frequently found over the porch of our 
churches, often with a fireplace, and sometimes with a closet within it, 
may probably have sometimes been inhabited by a recluse. Chambers are 
also sometimes found in the towers of churches.f Mr. Bloxam mentions 
a room, with a fire-place, in the tower of Upton Church, Nottinghamshire. 
Again, at Boyton Church, Wiltshire, the tower is on the north side of the 
church, " and adjoining the tower on the west side, and communicating 
with it, is a room which appears to have been once permanently inhabited, 
and in the north-east angle of this room is a fire-place." At Newport, Salop, 
the first floor of the tower seems to have been a habitable chamber, and 
has a little inner chamber corbelled out at the north-west angle of the 

We have already hinted that it is not improbable that timber anchor- 
holds were sometimes erected inside our churches. Or perhaps the recluse 
lived in the church itself, or, more definitely, in a par-closed chantry chapel, 
without any chamber being purposely built for him. The indications which 
lead us to this supposition are these : there is sometimes an ordinary 
domestic fire-place to be found inside the church. For instance, in the 
north aisle of Layer Marney Church, Essex, the western part of the aisle 
is screened off for the chantry of Lord Marney, whose tomb has the 
chantry altar still remaining, set crosswise at the west end of the tomb \ 
in the eastern division of the aisle there is an ordinary domestic fire-place 
in the north wall. There is a similar fire-place, of about the same date, in 
Sir Thomas Bullen's church of Hever, in Kent. 

Again, we sometimes find beside the low side-windows already spoken 
of, an arrangement which shows that it was intended for some one 

* Reports of the Lincoln Diocesan Archaeological Society for 1853, pp. 359-60. 

t Peter, Abbot of Clugny, tells us of a monk and priest of that abbey who had for 
a cell an oratory in a very high and remote steeple-tower, consecrated to the honour of 
St. Michael the archangel. " Here, devoting himself to divine meditation night and day, 
he mouri'ed high above mortal things, and seemed with the angels to be present at the 
nearer vision of his Maker." 

The Reclmorium. 


habitually to sit there. Thus, at Somerton, Oxfordshire, on the north side 
of the chancel, is a long and narrow window, with decorated tracery in the 
head ; the lower part is divided by a thick transom, and does not appear 
to have been glazed. In the interior the wall is recessed beside the 
window, with a sort of shoulder, exactly adapted to give room for a seat, 
in such a position that its occupant would get the full benefit of the light 
through the glazed upper part of the little window, and would be in a 
convenient position for conversing through the unglazed lower portion 
of it. 

At Elsfield Church, Oxfordshire, there 
is an early English lancet window, similarly 
divided by a transom, the lower part, now 
blocked up, having been originally un- 
glazed, and the sill of the window in the 
interior has been formed into a stone seat 
and desk. We reproduce here a view of 
the latter from the " Oxford Architectural 
Society's Guide to the Neighbourhood of 
Oxford." Perhaps in such instances as 
these, the recluse may have been a priest 
serving a chantry altar, and licensed, 
perhaps, to hear confessions,* for which 
the seat beside the little open window 
would be a convenient arrangement Wind™, XlsjUtf Church. 

Lord Scrope's will has already told us of a chaplain dwelling continu- 
ally {commoranH continuo) in the Church of St Nicholas, Gloucester, and 
of an anchorite living in the parish church of Stamford. There is a low 
side-window at Mawgan Church, Cornwall. In the south-east angle 
between the south transept and the chancel, the inner angle at the junction 
of the transept and chancel walls is cut away, from the floor upwards, to the 

In the Lichfield Registers we find that, on February 10, 1409, the bishop granted to 
Brother Richard Goldestone, late canon of Wombrugge, now recluse at Prior's Lee, near 
Shiffenale, license to hear confessions. (History of Whalley, p. 55.) 

140 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

height of six feet, and laterally about five feet in south and east directions 
from the angle. A short octagonal pillar, six feet high, supports all that 
remains of the angle of these walls, whilst the walls themselves rest on two 
flat segmental arches of three feet span. A low diagonal wall is built 
across the angle thus exposed, and a small lean-to roof is run up from it 
into the external angle enclosing a triangular space within. In this wall the 
low side-window is inserted. The sill of the window is four feet from the 
pavement. Further eastward a priest's door seems to have formed part of 
the arrangement. The west jamb of the doorway is cut away so that from 
this triangular space and from the transept beyond a view is obtained of 
the east window. 

The position of the low side-windows at Grade, Cury, and Landewednack 
is the same as that of Mawgan, but the window itself is different in form, 
those at Grade and at Cury being small oblong openings, the former i ft 
9 in. by i ft. 4 in., the sill only 1 ft. 9 in. from the ground ; the latter is 1 ft. 
by 11 in., the sill 3 ft. 4 in. from ground. At Landewednack the window 
has two lights, square headed, 2 ft. 6 in. by 1 ft. 4 in., sill 4 ft. 3^ in. from 
ground. A large block of serpentine rock is fixed in the ground beneath 
the window in a position convenient for a person standing but nol 
kneeling at the window.* 

Knighton gives us some particulars of a recluse priest who lived at 
Leicester. " There was," he says, " in those days at Leicester, a certain 
priest, hight William of Swynderby, whom they commonly called William 
the Hermit, because, for a long time, he had lived the hermitical life there ; 
they received him into a certain chamber within the church, because of the 
holiness they believed to be in him, and they procured for him victuals 
and a pension, after the manner of other priests." t 

In the " Test. Ebor.," p. 244, we find a testator leaving " to the chantry 
chapel of Kenby my red vestment, .... also the great missal and the 
great portifer, which I bought of Dominus Thomas Cope, priest and 
anchorite in that chapel." Blomfield also (ii. 75) tells us of a hermit, who 

• Paper by J. J. Rogers, Archceological Journal, xi. 33. 
t Twysden's " Henry de Knighton," vol. ii. p. 2665. 

The Reclusorium. 1 4 ■ 


lived in St. Cuthbert's Church, Thetford, and performed divine service 

Who has not, at some time, been deeply impressed by the solemn still- 
ness, the holy calm, of an empty church ? Earthly passions, and cares, 
and ambitions, seemed to have died away; one's soul was filled with 
a spiritual peace. One stood and listened to the wind surging against 
the walls outside, as the waves of the sea may beat against the walls 
of an ingulfed temple ; and one felt as effectually secluded from 
the surge and roar of the worldly life outside the sacred walls, as if in 
such a temple at the bottom of the sea. One gazed upon the monu- 
mental effigies, with their hands clasped in an endless prayer, and their 
passionless marble faces turned for ages heavenward, and read their 
mouldering epitaphs, and moralized on the royal preacher's text — " All is 
vanity and vexation of spirit" And then one felt the disposition — and, 
perhaps, indulged it — to kneel before the altar, all alone with God, in that 
still and solemn church, and pour out one's high-wrought thoughts before 
Him. At such times one has probably tasted something of the transcen- 
dental charm of the life of a recluse priest One could not sustain the 
tension long. Perhaps the old recluse, with his experience and his aids, 
could maintain it for a longer period. But to him, too, the natural 
reaction must have come in time ; and then he had his mechanical occupa- 
tions to fall back upon — trimming the lamps before the shrines, copying 
his manuscript, or illuminating its initial letters; perhaps, for health's 
sake, he took a daily walk up and down the aisle of the church, whose 
walls re-echoed his measured footfalls; then he had his oft-recurring 
"hours" to sing, and his books to read; and, to prevent the long hours 
which were still left him in his little par-closed chapel from growing 
too wearily monotonous, there came, now and then, a tap at the shutter 
of his "parlour" window, which heralded the visit of some poor soul, 
seeking counsel or comfort in his difficulties of this world or the next, 
or some pilgrim bringing news of distant lands, or some errant knight seeking 
news of adventures, or some parishioner come honestly to have a dish of 
gossip with the holy man, about the good and evil doings of his neighbours. 

There is a pathetic anecdote in Blomfield's " Norfolk," which will show 

142 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages, 

that the spirit and tl.e tradition of the old recluse priests survived the 
Reformation. The Rev. Mr. John Gibbs, formerly rector of Gessing, in 
that county, was ejected from his rectory in 1690 as a non-juror. "He 
was an odd but harmless man, both in life and conversation. After his 
ejection he dwelt in the north porch chamber, and laid on the stairs that 
led up to the rood-loft, between the church and chancel, having a window 
at his head, so that he could lie in his couch, and see the altar. He lived 
to be very old, and was buried at Frenze." 

Let us turn again to the female recluse, in her anchor-house outside the 
church. How was her cell furnished ? It had always a little altar at the 
east end, before which the recluse paid her frequent devotions, hearing, 
besides, the daily mass in church through her window, and receiving the 
Holy Sacrament at stated times. Bishop Poore advises his recluses to 
receive it only fifteen times a year. The little square unglazed window 
was closed with a shutter, and a black curtain with a white cross upon it 
also hung before the opening, through which the recluse could converse 
without being seen. The walls appear to have been sometimes painted 
— of course with devotional subjects. To complete the scene add a 
comfortable carved oak chair, and a little table, an embroidery frame, and 
such like appliances for needlework ; a book of prayers, and another of 
saintly legends, not forgetting Bishop Poore's " Ancren Riewle ; " a fire on 
the hearth in cold weather, and the cat, which Bishop Poore expressly 
allows, purring beside it; and lastly paint in the recluse, in her black 
habit and veil, seated in her chair; or prostrate before her little altar; 
or on her knees beside her church window listening to the chanted mass ; 
or receiving her basket of food from her servant, through the open parlour 
window; or standing before its black curtain, conversing with a stray 
knight-errant ; or putting her white hand through it, to give an alms to some 
village crone or wandering beggar. 

A few extracts from Bishop Poore's " Ancren Riewle," already several 
times alluded to, will give life to the picture we have painted. Though 
intended for the general use of recluses, it seems to have been specially 
addressed, in the first instance, to three sisters, who, in the bloom of youth, 

The Recluse Life. 143 

forsook the world, and became the tenants of a reclusorium. It would 
seem that in such cases each recluse had a separate cell, and did not com- 
municate, except on rare occasions, with her fellow inmates ; and each had 
her own separate servant to wait upon her. Here are some particulars as 
to their communication with the outer world. " Hold no conversation 
with any man out of a church window, but respect it for the sake of the 
Holy Sacrament which ye see there through ;* and at other times (other 
whiles) take your women to the window of the house (huses thurle), other 
men and women to the parlour-window to speak when necessary; nor 
ought ye (to converse) but at these two windows." Here we have three 
windows ; we have no difficulty in understanding which was the church- 
window, and the parlour-window — the window pour parler ; but what was 
the house-window, through which the recluse might speak to her servant ? 
^Vas it merely the third glazed window, through which she might, if it were 
convenient, talk with her maid, but not with strangers, because she would 
be seen through it ? or was it a window in the larger anchorholds, between 
the recluse cell, and the other apartment in which her maid lived, and in 
which, perhaps, guests were entertained ? The latter seems the more pro- 
bable explanation, and will receive further confirmation when we come to 
the directions about the entertainment of guests. The recluse was not to 
give way to the very natural temptation to put her head out of the open 
window, to get sometimes a wider view of the world about her. " A 
peering anchoress, who is always thrusting her head outward," he compares 
to " an untamed bird in a cage " — poor human bird ! In another place he 
gives a more serious exhortation on the same subject " Is not she too 
forward and foolhardy who holds her head boldly forth on the open battle- 
ments while men with crossbow bolts without assail the castle ? Surely 
our foe, the warrior of hell, shoots, as I ween, more bolts at one anchoress 
than at seventy and seven secular ladies. The battlements of the castle 
are the windows of their houses ; let her not look out at them, lest she 

* The translator of this book for the Camden Society's edition of it, says " therein," 
but the word in the original Saxon English is " ther thurgh." It refers to the window 
looking into the church, through which the lecluse looked down daily upon the celebra- 
tion of the mass. 

144 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

have the devil's bolts between her eyes before she even thinks of it." Here 
are directions how to cany on her "parlements": — " First of all, when you 
have to go to your parlour-window, learn from your maid who it is that is 

come ; and when you must needs go forth, go forth in the fear of 

God to a priest, and sit and listen, and not cackle." They were 

to be on their guard even with religious men, and not even confess, except 
in presence of a witness. " If any man requests to see you (i.e. to have 
the black curtain drawn aside), ask him what good might come of it. . . . 
If any one become so mad and unreasonable that he puts forth his hand 
toward the window-cloth (curtain), shut the window {i.e. close the shutter) 
quickly, and leave him ; . . . . and as soon as any man falls into evil 
discourse, close the window, and go away with this verse, that he may hear 
it, ' The wicked have told me foolish tales, but not according to thy law ; ' 
and go forth before your altar, and say the ' Miserere.' " Again, " Keep 
your hands within your windows, for handling or touching between a man 
and an anchoress is a thing unnatural, shameful, wicked," &c. 

The bishop adds a characteristic piece of detail to our picture when he 
speaks of the fair complexions of the recluses because not sunburnt, and 
their white hands through not working, both set in strong relief by the 
black colour of the habit and veil. He says, indeed, that " since no man 
seeth you, nor ye see any man, ye may be content with your clothes white 
or black." But in practice they seem usually to have worn black habits, 
unless, when attached to the church of any monastery, they may have 
worn the habit of the order. They were not to wear rings, brooches, 
ornamented girdles, or gloves. " An anchoress," he says, " ought to take 
sparingly (of alms), only that which is necessary (i.e. she ought not to take 
alms to give away again). If she can spare any fragments of her food, 
let her send them away (to some poor person) privately out of her dwelling. 
For the devil," he says elsewhere, " tempts anchoresses, through their 
charity, to collect to give to the poor, then to a friend, then to make a 
feast." " There are anchoresses," he says, " who make their meals with 
their friends without ; that is too much friendship." The editor thinks 
this to mean that some anchoresses left their cells, and went to dine at the 
houses of their friends ; but the word is gistes (guests), and, more probably, 

The Recluse Life. 145 

it only means that the recluse ate her dinner in her cell while a guest ate 
hers in the guest-room of the reclusorium, with an open window between, 
so that they could see and converse with one another. For we find in 

another place that she was to maintain " silence always at meals ; 

and if any one hath a guest whom she holds dear, she may cause her 
maid, as in her stead, to entertain her friend with glad cheer, and she shall 
have leave to open her window once or twice, and make signs to her of 
gladness." But " let no man eat in your presence, except he be in great 
need. The narrative already given at p. 109, of the visit of St. Richard the 
hermit to Dame Margaret the recluse of Anderby, also shows that in 
exceptional cases a recluse ate with men. The incident of the head of 
the recluse, in her convulsive sleep, falling at the window at which the 
hermit was reclining, and leaning partly upon him,* is explained by the 
theory that they were sitting in separate apartments, each close by this 
house window, which was open between them. As we have already seen, in 
the case of Sir Percival, a man might even sleep in the reclusorium ; and so 
the Rule says, " let no man sleep within your walls " as a general rule ; " i£ 
however, great necessity should cause your house to be used ■ by travellers, 
u see that ye have a woman of unspotted life with you day and night." 

As to their occupations, he advises them to make " no purses and blod- 
bendes of silk, but shape and sew and mend church vestments, and poor 
people's clothes, and help to clothe yourselves and your domestics." " An 
anchoress must not become a school-mistress, nor turn her house into a 
school for children. Her maiden may, however, teach any little girl con- 
cerning whom it might be doubtful whether she should learn among the 

Doubtless, we are right in inferring from the bishop's advice not to do 
certain things, that anchoresses were in the habit of doing them. From 
this kind of evidence we glean still further traits. He suggests to them 
that in confession they will perhaps have to mention such faults as these, 

* " Caput suum decidit ad fenestram ad quam se reclinabit sanctus Dei Ricardus." 
t In one of the stories of Reginald of Durham we learn that a school, according to a 
custcn then " common enough," was kept in the church of Norham on Tweed, the parish 
priest being the teacher. (Wright's "Domestic Manners of the Middle Ages," p. 117.) 


146 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

" I played or spoke thus in the church ; went to the play in the church- 
yard ; * looked on at this, or at the wrestling, or other foolish sports ; 
spoke thus, or played, in the presence of secular men, or of religious men, 
in a house of anchorites, and at a different window than I ought ; or, being 
alone in the church, I thought thus." Again he mentions, " Sitting too 
long at the parlour-window, spilling ale, dropping crumbs." Again we 
find, " Make no banquetings, nor encourage any strange vagabonds about 
the gate." But of all their failings, gossiping seems to have been the 
besetting sin of anchoresses. " People say of anchoresses that almost 
every one hath an old woman to feed her ears, a prating gossip, who 
tells her all the tales of the land, a magpie that chatters to her of every- 
thing that she sees or hears ; so that it is a common saying, from mill and 
from market, from smithy and from anchor-house, men bring tidings." 

Let us add the sketch drawn of them by the unfavourable hand of 
Bilney the Reformer, in his " Reliques of Rome," published in 1563, and 
we have done : — " As touching the monastical sect of recluses, and such as 
be shutte up within walls, there unto death continuall to remayne, giving 
themselves to the mortification of carnal effects, to the contemplation of 
heavenly and spirituall thinges, to abstinence, to prayer, and to such other 
ghostly exercises, as men dead to the world, and havyng their lyfe hidden 
with Christ, I have not to write. Forasmuch as I cannot fynde probably 
in any author whence the profession of anckers and anckresses had the 
beginning and foundation, although in this behalf I have talked with men 
of that profession which could very little or nothing say of the matter. 
Notwithstanding, as the Whyte Fryers father that order on Helias the 
prophet (but falsely), so likewise do the ankers and ankresses make that 
holy and virtuous matrone Judith their patroness and foundress ; but how 
unaptly who seeth not? Their profession and religion differeth as <ar 

• These two expressions seem to imply that recluses sometimes went out of their 
cell, not only into the church, but also into the churchyard. We have already noticed 
that the technical word " cell " seems to have included eveiything within the enclosure 
wall of the whole establishment. Is it possible that in the case of anchorages adjoining 
churches, the churchyard wall represented this enclosure, and the " cell " included both 
church and churchyard ? 

The Recluse Life. 147 

from the manners of Judith as light from darknesse, or God from the 
devill, as shall manifestly appere to them that will diligendye conferre the 
history of Judith with their life and conversation. Judith made herself a 
privy chamber where she dwelt (sayth the scripture), being closed in with 
her maydens. Our recluses also close themselves within the walls, but 
they suffer no man to be there with them. Judith ware a smoche of heare, 
but our recluses are both softly and finely apparalled. Judith fasted all 
the days of her lyfe, few excepted. Our recluses eate and drinke at all 
tymes of the beste, being of the number of them qui curios simulant d 
Bacchanalia vivunt. Judith was a woman of a very good report. Our 
recluses are reported to be superstitious and idolatrous persons, and such 
as all good men fiye their company. Judith feared the Lord gready, and 
lyved according to His holy word. Our recluses fear the pope, and gladly 
doe what his pleasure is to command them. Judith lyved of her own sub- 
stance and goods, putting no man to charge. Our recluses, as persons 
only borne to consume the good fruits of the erth, lyve idely of the labour 
01" other men's handes. Judith, when tyme required, came out of her 
closet, to do good unto other. Our recluses never come out of their 
lobbies, sincke or swimme the people. Judith put herself in jeopardy for 
to do good to the common countrye. Our recluses are unprofitable clods 
of the earth, doing good to no man. Who seeth not how farre our ankers 
and ankresses differe from the manners and life of this vertuous and godly 
woman Judith, so that they cannot jusdy claime her to be their patronesse ? 
Of some idle and superstitious heremite borrowed they their idle and super- 
stitious religion. For who knoweth not that our recluses have grates of 
yron in theyr spelunckes, and dennes out of the which they looke, as owles 
out of an yvye todde, when they will vouchsafe to speake with any man 
at whose hand they hope for advantage? So reade we in * Vitis Patrum,' 
that John the Heremite so enclosed himself in his hermitage that no 
person came in unto him; to them that came to visite him he spoke 
through a window onely. Our ankers and ankresses professe nothing but 
a solitary lyfe in their hallowed house, wherein they are inclosed wyth the 
vowe of obedience to the pope, and to their ordinary bishop. Their 
apparel is indifferent, so it be dissonant from the laity. No kind of meates 

148 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages, 

they are forbidden to eat. At midnight they are bound to say certain 
prayers. Their profession is counted to be among other professions so 
hardye and so streight that they may by no means be suffered to come out 
of their houses except it be to take on them an harder and streighter, 
which is to be made a bishop." 

It is not to be expected that mediaeval paintings should give illustrations 
of persons who were thus never visible in the world. In the pictures of the 

hermits of the Egyptian desert, on the walls of 
the Campo Santo at Pisa, we see a representa- 
tion of St. Anthony holding a conversation 
with St. John the Hermit, who is just visible 
through his grated window, " like an owl in 
an ivy tod," as Bilney says ; and we have 
already given a picture of Sir Percival knock- 
ing at the door of a female recluse. Bilney 
says, that they wore any costume, " so it were 
dissonant from the laity ; " but in all proba- 
bility they commonly wore a costume similar 
in colour to that of the male hermits. The 
picture which we here give of an anchoress, 
is taken from a figure of St Paula, one of 
the anchorite saints of the desert, in the 
same picture of St. Jerome, which has already 
supplied us, in the figure of St. Damasus, 
with our best picture of the hermit's cos- 

The service for enclosing a recluse * may be found in some of the old 
Service Books. We derive the following account of it from an old 
black-letter Manuale ad usum percelebris ecclesie Sarisburiensis (London, 
1554), in the British Museum. The rubric before the service orders that no 

St. Paula. 

* A commission given by William of Wykham, Bishop of Winchester, for enclosing 
Lucy de Newchurch as an anchoritess in the hermitage of St. Brendun, at Bristol, is 
given in Burnett's "History and Antiquities of Bristol," p. 61. 

The Service for Enclosing. 149 

one shall be enclosed without the bishop's leave ; that the candidate shall be 
closely questioned as to his motives ; that he shall be taught not to enter- 
tain proud thoughts, as if he merited to be set apart from intercourse with 
common men, but rather on account of his own infirmity it was good 
that he should be removed from contact with others, that he might be kept 
out of sin himself, and not contaminate them. So that the recluse should 
esteem himself to be condemned for his sins, and shut up in his solitary 
cell as in a prison, and unworthy, for his sins, of the society of men. 
There is a note, that this office shall serve for both sexes. On the day 
before the ceremony of inclusion, the Indudendus — the person about to be 
inclosed — was to confess, and to fast that day on bread and water ; and all 
that night he was to watch and pray, having his wax taper burning, in the 
monastery,* near his inclusorium. On the morrow, all being assembled in 
church, the bishop, or priest appointed by him, first addressed an exhorta- 
tion to the people who had come to see the ceremony, and to the indu- 
dendus himself, and then began the service with a response, and several 
appropriate psalms and collects. After that, the priest put on his chasuble, 
and began mass, a special prayer being introduced for the includendus. 
After the reading of the gospel, the includendus stood before the altar, and 
offered his taper, which was to remain burning on the altar throughout the 
mass ; and then, standing before the altar-step, he read his profession, or if 
he were a layman (and unable to read), one of the chorister boys read it 
for him. And this was the form of his profession : — " I, brother (or sister) 
N, offer and present myself to serve the Divine Goodness in the order of 
Anchorites, and I promise to remain, according to the rule of that order, 
in the service of God, from henceforth, by the grace of God, and the 
counsel of the Church." Then he signed the document in which his 
profession was written with the sign of the cross, and laid it upon the 
altar on bended knees. Then the bishop or priest said a prayer, and 
asperged with holy water the habit of the includendus ; and he put on the 
habit, and prostrated himself before the altar, and so remained, while the 

• " In monasterio inclusorio suo vicino ; " it seems as if the writer of the rubric were 
specially thinking of the inclusoria within monasteries. 

150 The Hermits and Recluses of the Middle Ages. 

priest and choir sang over him the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, and then 
proceeded with the mass. First the priest communicated, then the inclu- 
dendus, and then the rest of the congregation ; and the mass was concluded. 
Next his wax taper, which had all this time been burning on the altar, was 
given to the includendus, and a procession was formed ; first the choir ; then 
the includendus, clad in his proper habit, and carrying his lighted taper ; 
then the bishop or priest, in his mass robes ; and then the people following; 
and so they proceeded, singing a solemn litany, to the cell. And first the 
priest entered alone into the cell, and asperged it with holy water, saying 
appropriate sentences ; then he consecrated and blessed the cell, with prayers 
offered before the altar of its chapel. The third of these short prayers 
may be transcribed : " Benedic domine domum istam et locum istum, ut 
sit in eo sanitas, sanctitas, castitas, virtus, victoria, sanctimonia, humilitas, 
lenitas, mansuetudo, plenitudo, legis et obedientse Deo Patre et Filio et 
Spiritui Sancto et sit super locum istum et super omnes habitantes in eo 
tua larga benedictio, ut in his manufactis habitaculis cum solemtate 
manentes ipsi tuum sit semper habitaculum. Per dominum," &c. Then 
the bishop or priest came out, and led in the includendus, still carrying 
his lighted taper, and solemnly blessed him. And then — a mere change in 
the tense of the rubric has an effect which is quite pathetic ; it is no longer 
the includendus, the person to be enclosed, but the inclusus, the enclosed 
one, he or she upon whom the doors of the cell have closed for ever in 
this life — then the enclosed is to maintain total and solemn silence 
throughout, while the doors are securely closed, the choir chanting appro- 
priate psalms. Then the celebrant causes all the people to pray for the 
inclusus privately, in solemn silence, to God, for whose love he has left the 
world, and caused himself to be inclosed in that strait prison. And after 
some concluding prayers, the procession left the inclusus to his solitary 
life, and returned, chanting, to the church, finishing at the step of the choir. 
One cannot read this solemn — albeit superstitious — service, in the quaint 
old mediaeval character, out of the very book which has, perhaps, been 
used in the actual enclosing of some recluse, without being moved. Was 
it some frail woman, with all the affections of her heart and the hopes of 
her earthly life shattered, who sought the refuge of this living tomb ? was 

The Service for Enclosing. 151 

it some man of strong passions, wild and fierce in his crimes, as wild and 
fierce in his penitence ? or was it some enthusiast, with the over-excited 
religious sensibility, of which we have instances enough in these days? 
We can see them still, in imagination, prostrate, "in total and solemn 
silence," before the wax taper placed upon the altar of the little chapel 
and listening while the chant of the returning procession grows fainter and 
fainter in the distance. Ah ! we may scornfully smile at it all as a wild super- 
stition, or treat it coldly as a question of mere antiquarian interest ; but 
what broken hearts, what burning passions, have been shrouded under that 
recluse's robe, and what wild cries of human agony have been stifled under 
that " total and solemn silence ! " When the processional chant had died 
away in the distance, and the recluse's taper had burnt out on his little 
altar, was that the end of the tragedy, or only the end of the first act? 
Did the broken heart find repose ? Did the wild spirit grow tame ? Or did 
the one pine away and die like a flower in a dungeon, and the other beat 
itself to death against the bars of its self-made cage ? 



j ESIDES all other religious people living under vows, in commu- 
nity in monasteries, or as solitaries in their anchorages, there were 
also a number of Widows vowed to that life and devoted to the 
service of God, who lived at home in their own houses or with their 
families. This was manifestly a continuation, or imitation, of the primitive 
Order of Widows, of whom St. Paul speaks in his first Epistle to Timothy 
(ch. v.). For although religious women, from an early period (fourth cen- 
tury), were usually nuns, the primitive Orders of Deaconesses and Widows 
did not altogether cease to exist in the Church. The Service Books* 
contain offices for their benediction ; and though it is probable that in fact 
a deaconess was very rarely consecrated in the Western Church, yet the 
number of allusions to widows throughout the Middle Ages leads us to 
suspect that there may have been no inconsiderable number of them. A 
common form of commission! to a suffragan bishop includes the conse- 
crating of widows. From the Pontifical of Edmund Lacey, Bishop of 
Exeter, of the fourteenth century, we give a sketch of the service.}: It is the 
same in substance as those in the earlier books. First, a rubric states that 
though a widow may be blessed on any day, it is more fitting that she be 
blessed on a holy day, and especially on the Lord's day. Between the 

* The Ordo Romanus. The Pontifical of Egbert. The Pontifical of Bishop 

t Guardian newspaper, Feb. 7, 1870. 

J Surrey Society's Transactions, vol. iii. p. 218. 

The Consecration Service. 153 

Epistle and the Gospel, the bishop sitting on a faldstool facing the people, 
the widow kneeling before the bishop is to be interrogated if she desires, 
putting away all carnal affections, to be joined as a spouse to Christ 
Then she shall publicly in the vulgar tongue profess herself, in the bishop's 
hands, resolved to observe perpetual continence. Then the bishop 
blesses her habit (clamidem), saying a collect. Then the bishop, genu- 
flecting, begins the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus ; the widow puts on 
the habit and veil, and the bishop blesses and gives her the ring ; and 
with a final prayer for appropriate virtues and blessings, the ordinary 
service of Holy Communion is resumed, special mention of the widow 
being made therein. 

These collects are of venerable age, and have much beauty of thought 
and expression. The reader may be glad to see one of them as an 
example, and as an indication of the spirit in which people entered into 
these religious vows : " O God, the gracious inhabiter of chaste bodies 
and lover of uncorrupt souls, look we pray Thee, O Lord, upon this Thy 
servant, who humbly offers her devotion to Thee. May there be in her, 
O Lord, the gift of Thy spirit, a prudent modesty, a wise graciousness, a 
grave gentleness, a chaste freedom ; may she be fervent in charity and love 
nothing beside Thee (extra te) ; may she live praiseworthy and not desire 
praise ; may she fear Thee and serve Thee with a chaste love ; be Thou 
to her, O Lord, honour, Thou delight ; be Thou in sorrow her comfort, 
in doubt her counsellor ; be Thou to her defence in injury, in tribulation 
patience, in poverty abundance, in fasting food, in sickness medicine. 
By Thee, whom she desires to love above all things, may she keep what 
she has vowed ; so that by Thy help she may conquer the old enemy, 
and cast out the defilements of sin ; that she may be decorated with the 
gift of fruit sixty fold,* and adorned with the lamps of all virtues, and by 
Thy grace may be worthy to join the company of the elect widows. This 
we humbly ask through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

* The same collect, with a few variations, was used also in the consecration of nuns. 
Virgin chastity was held to bring forth fruit a hundred fold ; widowed chastity, sixty 
fold; uianied chastity, thirty fold. 

1 54 Consecrated Widows of the Middle Ages. 

In a paper in the " Surrey Transactions," vol. iii. p. 208, Mr. Baigent, the 
writer of it, finds two, and only two, entries of the consecration of widows in 
the Episcopal Registers of Winchester, which go back to the early part of 
the reign of Edward I. The first of these is on May 4, 1348, of the Lady 
Aleanor Giffard, probably, says Mr. Baigent, the widow of John Giffard, 
of Bowers Giffard, in Essex. The other entry, on October 18, 1379, is of 
the Benediction of Isabella Burgh, the w'dow of a citizen of London 
(whose will is given by Mr. Baigent), and of Isabella Golafre, widow of 
Sir John Golafre. 

The profession of the widow is given in old French, and a translation of 
it in old English, as follows : " In ye name of God, Fader and Sone and 
Holy Ghost. Iche Isabelle Burghe, that was sometyme wyfe of Thomas 
Burghe, wyche that is God be taught helpynge the grace of God [the 
parallel French is, Quest a Dieu commande ottriaunte la grace de Dieu] 
behote [promise] conversione of myn maners, and make myn avows to 
God, and to is swete moder Seynte Marie and to alle seintz, into youre handes 
leve [dear] fader in God, William be ye grace of God Bisshope of Wyn- 
chestre, that fro this day forward I schal ben chaste of myn body and in 
holy chastite kepe me treweliche and devouteliche all ye dayes of myn life." 
Another form of profession is written on the lower margin of the Exeter 
Pontifical, and probably in the handwriting of Bishop Lacy : " I, N., 
wedowe, avowe to God perpetuall chastite of my body from henceforward, 
and in the presence of the honorable fadyr in God, my Lord N., by the 
grace of God, Bishop of N., I promyth sabilly to leve in the Church, a 
wedowe. And this to do, of myne own hand I subscribe this writing : 
Et postea faciat signum cruris." 

Another example of a widow in the Winchester registers is that of 
Elizabeth de Julien, widow of John Plantagenet, Earl of Kent, who made 
that vow to Bishop William de Edyndon, but afterwards married Sir 
Eustache Dabrichecourt, September 29, 1360, whereupon proceedings were 
commenced against her by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who imposed on 
her a severe and life-long penance. She survived her second husband 
many years, and dying in 141 1, was buried in the choir of the Friars 
Minor at Winchester, near the tomb of her first husband. 

Vidua ac Deo devota. 155 

The epitaph on the monumental brass of Joanna Braham, a.d. 15 19, at 
Frenze, in Norfolk, describes her as " Vidua ac Deo devota." 

In the Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry is a description of a 
lady who, if she had not actually taken the vows of widowhood, lived 
the life we should suppose to be that of a vowess. " It is of a good 
lady whiche longe tyme was in wydowhode. She was of a holy lyf, 
and moste humble and honourable, as the whiche every yere kepte and 
held a feste upon Crystemasse-day of her neyghbours bothe farre and nere, 
tyll her halle was ml of them. She served and honoured eche one after 
his degree, and specially she bare grete reverence to the good and trewe 
wymmen, and to them whiche has deservyd to be worshipped. Also she 
was of suche customme that yf she knewe any poure gentyll woman 
that shold be wedded she arayed her with her jewels. Also she wente 
to the obsequye of the poure gentyll wymmen, and gaf there torches, and 
all such other lumynary as it neded thereto. Her dayly ordenaunce was 
that she rose erly ynough, and had ever freres, and two or three chappellayns 
whiche sayd matyns before her within her oratorye ; and after she herd a 
hyhe masse and two lowe, and sayd her servyse full devoutely; and 
alter this she wente and arayed herself, and walked in her gardyn, or else 
aboute her plase, sayenge her other devocions and prayers. And as tyme 
was she wente to dyner ; and after dyner, if she wyste and knewe ony 
seke folke or wymmen in theyr childbedde, she went to see and vysited 
them, and made to be brought to them of her best mete. And then, as 
she myght not go herself, she had a servant propyer therefore, whiche 
rode upon a lytell hors, and bare with him grete plente of good mete and 
drynke for to gyve to the poure and seke folk there as they were. 
And after she had herd evensonge she went to her souper, yf she fasted 
not. And tymely she wente to bedde ; made her styward to come to her 
to wete what mete sholde be had the next daye, and lyved by good 
ordenaunce, and wold be purveyed byfore of alle such thynge that was 
nedefull for her household. She made grete abstynence, and wered the 
hayre * upon the Wednesday and upon the Fryday And she rose 

• Hair-cloth garment worn next the skin for mortification. 

156 Consecrated Widows of the Middle Ages. 

everye night thre tymes, and kneled downe to the ground by her bedde, 
and redryd thankynges to God, and prayd for al Crysten soules, and dyd 
grete almes to the poure. This good lady, that wel is worthy to be 

named and preysed, had to name my lady Cecyle of Ballavylle 

She was the most good and curtoys lady that ever I knewe or wyste in 
ony countrey, and that lesse was envious, and never she wold here say ony 
evyll of no body, but excused them, and prayd to God that they myght 
amende them, and that none was that knewe what to hym shold happe. 
.... She had a ryhte noble ende, and as I wene ryht agreable to God ; and 
as men say commonely, of honest and good lyf cometh ever a good ende." 
In post-Reformation times there are biographies of holy women which 
show that the idea of consecrated widowhood was still living in the minds 
of the people. Probably the dress commonly worn by widows throughout 
their widowhood is a remnant of the mediaeval custom. 



HE fashion of going on pilgrimage seems to have sprung up in the 
fourth century. The first object of pilgrimage was the Holy 
Land. Jerome said, at the outset, the most powerful thing 
which can be said against it ; viz., that the way to heaven is as short from 
Britain as from Jerusalem — a consolatory reflection to those who were 
obliged, or who preferred, to stay at home; but it did not succeed in 
quenching the zeal of those many thousands who desired to see, with their 
own eyes, the places which had been hallowed by the presence and the 
deeds of their Lord — to tread, with their own footsteps, 

" Those holy fields 
Over whose acres walked those blessed feet, 
Which " eighteen " hundred years ago were nailed 
For our advantage on the bitter cross ;"• 

to kneel down and pray for pardon for their sins upon that very spot 
where the Great Sacrifice for sin was actually offered up ; to stand upon 
the summit of Mount Olivet, and gaze up into that very pathway through 
the sky by which He ascended to His kingdom in Heaven. 
We should, however, open up too wide a field if we were to enter into 

• King Henry IV., Pt. I., Act i. Sc I. 


The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

the subject of the early pilgrims to the Holy Land ;* to trace their route 
from Britain, usually via Rome, by sea and land; to describe how a 
pilgrim passenger-traffic sprung up, of which adventurous ship-owners took 
advantage j how hospitals! were founded here and there along the road, to 
give refuge to the weary pilgrims, until they reached the Hospital par 

Thirteenth Century Pilgrims (the two Disciples at EmmausJ. 

excellence, which stood beside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; how 
Saxon kings made treaties to secure their safe conduct through foreign 

* There have come down to us a series of narratives of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. 
One of a Christian of Bordeaux as early as 333 a.d. ; that of S. Paula and her daughter, 
about 386 a.d., given by St. Jerome; of Bishop Arculf, 700 A.D. ; of Willebald, 725 
A.D. ; of Ssewulf, 1102 A.D. ; of Sigurd the Crusader, 1107 a.d. ; of Sir John de Man- 
deville, 1322— 1356.— Early Travels in Palestine (Bonn's Antiq. Lib.). 

t At the present day, the Hospital of the Pellegrini at Eome is capable of enter- 
taining seven thousand guests, women as well as men ; to be entitled to the hospitality of 
the institution, they must have walked at least sixty miles, and be provided with a certi- 
ficate from a bishop or priest to the effect that they are bona-fide pilgrims. (Wild'i 
•* Last Winter in Rome." Longmans: 1865.) 

Foreign Pilgrimages. 159 

countries;* how the Order of the Knights of the Temple was founded to 
escort the caravans of pilgrims from one to another of the holy places, and 
protect them from marauding Saracens and Arabs; how the Crusades 
were organised partly, no doubt, to stem the course of Mahommedan 
conquest, but ostensibly to wrest the holy places from the hands of the 
infidel : this part of the subject of pilgrimage would occupy too much 
of our space here. Our design is to give a sketch of the less known 
portion of the subject, which relates to the pilgrimages which sprung up 
in after-times, when the veneration for the holy places had extended to the 
shrines of saints ; and when, still later, veneration had run wild into the 
grossest superstition, and crowds of sane men and women flocked to relic- 
worships, which would be ludicrous if they were not so pitiable and humi- 
liating. This part of the subject forms a chapter in the history of the 
manners of the Middle Ages, which is little known to any but the anti- 
quarian student ; but it is an important chapter to all who desire thoroughly 
to understand what were the modes of thought and habits of life of our 
English forefathers in the Middle Ages. 

The most usual foreign pilgrimages were to the Holy Land, the scene 
of our Lord's earthly life ; to Rome, the centre of western Christianity ; 
and to the shrine of St James at Compostella.f 

The number of pilgrims to these places must have been comparatively 
limited ; for a man who had any regular business or profession could not 

* In the latter part of the Saxon period of our history there was a great rage for 
foreign pilgrimage ; thousands of persons were continually coming and going between 
England and the principal shrines of Europe, especially the threshold of the Apostles at 
Rome. They were the subject of a letter from Charlemagne to King Offa : — " Concerning 
the strangers who, for the love of God and the salvation of their souls, wish to repair to 
the thresholds of the blessed Apostles, let them travel in peace without any trouble." 
Again, in the year 1031 A.D., King Canute made a pilgrimage to Rome (as other Saxon 
kings had done before him) and met the Emperor Conrad and other princes, from whom 
he obtained for all his subjects, whether merchants or pilgrims, exemptions from the 
heavy tolls usually exacted on the journey to Rome. 

t At the marriage of our Edward I., in 1254, with Leonora, sister of Alonzo of 
Castile, a protection to English pilgrims was stipulated for ; but they came in such 
numbers as to alarm the French, and difficulties were thrown in the way. In the fifteenth 
century, Rymer mentions 916 licences to make the pilgrimage to Santiago granted in 
1428, and 2,400 in 1434. 

160 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

well undertake so long an absence from home. The rich of no occupation 
could afford the leisure and the cost ; and the poor who chose to abandon 
their lawful occupation could make these pilgrimages at the cost of others ; 
for the pilgrim was sure of entertainment at every hospital, or monastery, 
or priory, probably at every parish priest's rectory and every gentleman's 
hall,* on his way; and there were not a few poor men and women who 
indulged a vagabond humour in a pilgrim's life. The poor pilgrim repaid 
his entertainer's hospitality by bringing the news of the countries! through 
which he had passed, and by amusing the household after supper with 
marvellous saintly legends, and traveller's tales. He raised a little money 
for his inevitable travelling expenses by retailing holy trifles and curiosities, 
such as were sold wholesale at all the shrines frequented by pilgrims, and 
which were usually supposed to have some saintly efficacy attached to 
them. Sometimes the pilgrim would take a bolder flight, and carry with 
him some fragment of a relic — a joint of a bone, or a pinch of dust, or a nail- 
paring, or a couple of hairs of the saint, or a rag of his clothing ; and the 
people gladly paid the pilgrim for thus bringing to their doors some of the 
advantages of the holy shrines which he had visited. Thus Chaucer's 
Pardoner — " That strait was comen from the Court of Rome " — 

" In hii mail J he had a pilwebere,} 
"Which as he saidfi was oure Lady's veil ; 

• King Horn, having taken the disguise of a palmer — " Horn took bourden and scrip " 
—went to the palace of Athulf and into the hall, and took his place among the beggars 
"in beggar's row," and sat on the ground. — Thirteenth Century Romance of King 
Horn (Early English Text Society). That beggars and such persons did usually sit on 
the ground in the hall and wait for a share of the food, we learn also from the "Vision 
of Piers Ploughman," xii. 198 — 

" Right as sum man gave me meat, and set me amid the floor, 
I have meat more than enough, and not so much worship 
As they that sit at side table, or with the sovereigns of the hall, 
But sit as a beggar boardless by myself on the ground." 

f In the romance of King Horn, the hero meets a palmer and asks his news — 
" A palmere he there met 
And fair him grette [greeted] : 
Palmer, thou shalt me tell 
All of thine spell." 
J Wallet. $ Pillow covering. 

English Shrines. l6l 

He said he had a gobbet of the sail 
Thatte St. Peter had whan that he went 
Upon the sea, till Jesu Christ him hent.* 
He had a cross of laton full of stones ;t 
And in a glass he hadde" pigges bones. J 
But with these relics whann6 that he fond 
A poure parson dwelling upon lond, 
Upon a day he gat him more monie 
Than that the parson gat in monthes tweie. 
And thus with feined flattering and japes, 
He made the parson and the people his apes." 

In a subsequent chapter, on the Merchants of the Middle Ages, will be 
found some illustrations of mediaeval shipping, which also illustrate the 
present subject. One is a representation of Sir John Mandeville and his 
companions in mantle, hat, and staff, just landed at a foreign town on 
their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Another represents Richard Beau- 
champ, Earl of Warwick, in mantle, hat, and staff, embarking in his own 
ship on his departure for a similar pilgrimage. Another illustration in the 
subsequent chapter on Secular Clergy represents Earl Richard at Rome, 
being presented to the Pope. 

But those who could not spare time or money to go to Jerusalem, or 
Rome, or Compostella, could spare both for a shorter expedition; and 
pilgrimages to English shrines appear to have been very common. By far 
the most popular of our English pilgrimages was to the shrine of St. 
Thomas-a-Becket, at Canterbury, and it was popular not only in England, 
but all over Europe. The one which stood next in popular estimation, 
was the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Walsingham. But nearly every cathe- 
dral and great monastery, and many a parish church besides, had its 
famous saint to whom the people resorted. There was St Cuthbert at 
Durham, and St. William at York, and little St William at Norwich, and 
St. Hugh at Lincoln, and St. Edward Confessor at Westminster, and St 
Erkenwald in the cathedral of London, and St. Wulstan at Worcester, and 
St. Swithin at Winchester, and St. Edmund at Bury, and SS. Etheldreda 

* Called or took. 

t i.e. Latten (a kind of bronze) set with (mock) precious stones. 

\ Pretending them to be relics of some saint. 

162 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

and Withburga at Ely, and many more, whose remains were esteemed holy 
relics, and whose shrines were frequented by the devout. Some came to 
pray at the tomb for the intercession of the saint in their behalf; or to 
seek the cure of disease by the touch of the relic ; or to offer up thanks 
for deliverance believed to have been vouchsafed in time of peril through 
the saint's prayers; or to obtain the number of days' pardon — i.e. of 
remission of their time in purgatory — offered by Papal bulls to those who 
should pray at the tomb. Then there were famous roods, the Rood of 
Chester and of Bromholme ; and statues of the Virgin, as Our Lady of 
Wilsden, and of Boxley, and of this, that, and the other place. There 
were scores of holy wells besides, under saintly invocations, of which St. 
Winifred's well with her chapel over it still remains an excellent example,* 
Some of these were springs of medicinal water, and were doubtless of 
some efficacy in the cures for which they were noted ; in others a saint 
had baptized his converts ; others had simply afforded water to a saint in 
his neighbouring cell.t 

Before any man J went on pilgrimage, he first went to his church, and 
received the Church's blessing on his pious enterprise, and her prayers for 
his good success and safe return. The office of pilgrims {pfficium peregri- 
norum) may be found in the old service-books. We give a few notes of it 
from a Sarum missal, date 1554, in the British Museum. § The pilgrim is 

* See " Archaeological Journal," vol. iii. p. 149. 

f Mr. Taylor, in his edition of " Blomfield's Norfolk," enumerates no less than seventy 
places of pilgrimage in Norfolk alone. 

\ A man might not go without his wife's consent, nor a wife without her husband's : — 

" To preche them also thou might not wonde [fear, hesitate], 
Both to wyf and eke husbande, 
That nowther of hem no penance take, 
Ny non a vow to chastity make, 
Ny no pylgrimage take to do 
But if bothe assente thereto. 
» * * * • 

Save the vow to Jherusalem, 
That is lawful to ether of them." 

Instructions for Parish Priests. (Early 
English Text Society.) 
\ Marked 3,395 d. 4to. The footnote on a previous page (p. 158) leads us to conjecture 

Office Jor Blessing Pilgrims. 


previously to have confessed. At the opening of the service he lies pros- 
trate before the altar, while the priest and choir sing over him certain 
appropriate psalms, viz. the 24th, 50th, and 90th. Then follow some 
versicles, and three collects, for safety, &c, in which the pilgrim is men- 
tioned by name, "thy servant, N." Then he rises, and there follows the 
benediction of his scrip and staff; and the priest sprinkles the scrip with 
holy water, and places it on the neck of the pilgrim, saying, " In the name 
of. &c., take this scrip, the habit of your pilgrimage, that, corrected and 
saved, you may be worthy to reach the thresholds of the saints to which 
you desire to go, and, your journey done, 
may return to us in safety." Then the priest 
delivers the staff, saying, " Take this staff, 
the support of your journey, and of the 
labour of your pilgrimage, that you may be 
able to conquer all the bands of the enemy, 
and to come safely to the threshold of the 
saints to which you desire to go, and, your 
journey obediently performed, return to us 
with joy." If any one of the pilgrims pre- 
sent is going to Jerusalem, he is to bring 
a habit signed with the cross, and the priest 
blesses it: — ". ... we pray that Thou 
wilt vouchsafe to bless this cross, that the 
banner of the sacred cross, whose figure is 
signed upon him, may be to Thy servant 
an invincible strength against the evil 
temptations of the old enemy, a defence by the way, a protection in 
Thy house, and may be to us everywhere a guard, through our Lord, 
&c" Then he sprinkles the habit with holy water, and gives it to the 
pilgrim, saying, " Take this habit, signed with the cross of the Lord our 
Saviour, that by it you may come safely to his sepulchre, who, with the 

that in ancient as in modern times the pilgrim may have received a certificate of his having 
been blessed as a pilgrim, as now we give certificates of baptism, marriage, and holy 

Lydgatfs Pilgrim. 

164 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

Father," &c Then follows mass ; and after mass, certain prayers over 
the pilgrims, prostrate at the altar; then, "let them communicate, and 
so depart in the name of the Lord." The service runs in the plural, as 
if there were usually a number of pilgrims to be dispatched together. 

There was a certain costume appropriate to the pilgrim, which old 
writers speak of under the title of pilgrims' weeds ; the illustrations of 
this paper will give examples of it. It consisted of a robe and hat, a 
staff and scrip. The robe called sclavina by Du Cange, and other writers, 
is said to have been always of wool, and sometimes of shaggy stuff, 
like that represented in the accompanying woodcut of the latter part 
of the fourteenth century, from the Harleian MS., 4,826. It seems 
intended to represent St. John Baptist's robe of camel's hair. Its colour 
does not appear in the illuminations, but old writers speak of it as grey. 
The hat seems to be commonly a round hat, of felt, and, apparently, does 
not differ from the hats which travellers not uncommonly wore over their 
hoods in those days.* 

The pilgrim who was sent on pilgrimage as a penance seems usually to 
have been ordered to go barefoot, and probably many others voluntarily 
inflicted this hardship upon themselves in order to heighten the merit and 
efficacy of their good deed. They often also made a vow not to cut 
the hair or beard until the pilgrimage had been accomplished. But the 
special insignia of a pilgrim were the staff and scrip. In the religious 
service with which the pilgrims initiated their journey, we have seen that 
the staff and scrip are the only insignia mentioned, except in the case 
of one going to the Holy Land, who has a robe signed with the cross ; 
the staff and the scrip were specially blessed by the priest, and the pilgrim 
formally invested with them by his hands. 

The staff, or bourdon, was not of an invariable shape. On a fourteenth- 
century grave-stone at Haltwhistle, Northumberland, it is like a rather long 
walking-stick, with a natural knob at the top. In the cut from Erasmus's 
" Praise of Folly," which forms the frontispiece of Mr. Nichols's " Pil- 
grimages of Canterbury and Walsingham," it is a similar walking-stick; 

• See woodcut on p. 90. 

The Scrip and Staff. 


but, usually, it was a long staff, some five, six, or seven feet long, turned in 
the lathe, with a knob at the top, and another about a foot lower down. 
Sometimes a little below the lower knob there is a hook, or a staple, to 
which we occasionally find a water-bottle or a small bundle attached. The 
hook is seen on the staff of Lydgate's pilgrim (p. 163). Sir John Hawkins 
tells us * that the staff was sometimes hollowed out into a kind of flute, 
on which the pilgrim could play. The same kind of staff we find 
in illuminated MSS. in the hands of beggars and shepherds, as well as 

The scrip was a small bag, slung at the side by a cord over the shoulder, 
to contain the pilgrim's food and his few necessaries.t Sometimes it was 
made of leather; but probably the mate- 
rial varied according to the taste and 
wealth of the pilgrim. We find it of dif- 
ferent shape and size in different examples. 
In the monumental effigy of a pilgrim of 
rank at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the scrip is 
rather long, widest at bottom, and is orna- 
mented with three tassels at the bottom, 
something like the bag in which the Lord 
Chancellor carries the great seal, and it 
has scallop shells fixed upon its front. 
In the grave-stone of a knight at Halt- 
whistle, already alluded to, the knight's 
arms, sculptured upon the shield on one 
side of his grave cross, are a fess be- 
tween three garbs (i.e. wheat-sheaves) ; 
and a garb is represented upon his scrip, which is square and otherwise 
plain. The tomb of Abbot Chillenham, at Tewkesbury, has the pilgrim's 
staff and scrip sculptured upon it as an architectural ornament ; the scrip is 


Pilgrim, from Erasmus's " Praise 
of Folly." 

* "History of Music." 

f "' Conscience then with Patience passed, Pilgrims as it were, 
Then had Patience, as pilgrims have, in his poke vittailes." 

Piers Ploughman's Vision, xiii. 215. 

1 66 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

like the mediaeval purse, with a scallop shell on the front of it, very like 
that on p. 163.* The pilgrim is sometimes represented with a bottle, 
often with a rosary, and sometimes with other conveniences for travelling 
or helps to devotion. There is a very good example in Hans Burgmaier's 
" Images de Saints, &c, of the Familly of the Emp. Maximilian I." fol. 112. 
But though the conventional pilgrim is always represented with robe, 
and hat, and staff, and scrip, the actual pilgrim seems sometimes to have 
dispensed with some, if not with all, of these insignia. For example, 
Chaucer minutely describes the costume of the principal personages in his 
company of Canterbury Pilgrims, and he not only does not describe what 
would have been so marked and picturesque features in their appearance, 
but his description seems to preclude the pilgrim's robe and hat. His 
knight is described in the ordinary jupon, 

" Of fustian he wered a jupon." 
And the squire — 

" Short was his gowne with sieves long and wide." 
And the yeoman— 

" Was clad in cote and hood of green." 

And the serjeant of the law — 

" Rode but homely in a medlee cote, 
Girt with a seint f of silk with baires small." 

The merchant was in motley — 

"And on his hed a Flaundrish bever hat." 

And so with all the rest, they are clearly described in the ordinary dress 

of their class, which the pilgrim's robe would have concealed. It seems 

very doubtful whether they even bore the especial insignia of staff and 

scrip. Perhaps when men and women went their pilgrimage on horseback, 

they did not go through the mere form of carrying a long walking-staff. 

The equestrian pilgrim, of whom we shall give a woodcut hereafter, 

though he is very correctly habited in robe and hat, with pilgrim signs 

on each, and his rosary round his neck, does not carry the bourdon. 

The only trace of pilgrim costume about Chaucer's Pilgrims, is in the 

Pardoner — 

* Grose's " Gloucestershire," pi. lvii. f Girdle. 

Pilgrim Signs, 167 

" A vernicle hadde he sewed in his cappe " — 
but that was a sign of a former pilgrimage to Rome ; and it is enough to 
prove — if proof were needed — that Chaucer did not forget to clothe his 
personages in pilgrim weeds, but that they did not wear them. 

But besides the ordinary insignia of pilgrimage, every pilgrimage had its 
special signs, which the pilgrim on his return wore conspicuously upon his 
hat or his scrip, or hanging round his neck, in token that he had accom- 
plished that particular pilgrimage. The pilgrim who had made a long 
pilgrimage, paying his devotions at every shrine in his way, might come 
back as thickly decorated with signs as a modem soldier, who has been 
through a stirring campaign, with medals and clasps. 

The pilgrim to the Holy Land had this distinction above all others, 
that he wore a special sign from the very hour that he took the vow upon 
him to make that most honourable pilgrimage. This sign was a cross, 
formed of two strips of coloured cloth sewn upon the shoulder of the 
robe ; the English pilgrim wore the cross of white, the French of red, the 
Flemish of green. Some, in their fierce earnestness, had the sacred sign 
cut into their flesh ; in the romance of " Sir Isumbras," we read — 

** With a sharpe knyfe he share 
A cross upon his shoulder bare." 

Others had it branded upon them with a hot iron ; one pilgrim in the 
* Mirac. de S. Thomse " of Abbot Benedict gives the obvious reason, that 
though his clothes should be torn away, no one should be able to tear 
the cross from his breast. At the end of the Officium peregrinorum, 
which we have described, we find a rubric calling attention to the fact, 
that burning the cross in the flesh is forbidden by the canon law on pain 
of the greater excommunication ; the prohibition is proof enough that at 
one time it was a not uncommon practice. But when the pilgrim reached 
the Holy Land, and had visited the usual round of the holy places, he 
became entitled to wear the palm in token of his accomplishment of that 
great pilgrimage ; and from this badge he derived the name of Palmer. 
How the palm was borne does not quite certainly appear ; some say that it 
was a branch of palm, which the returning pilgrim bore in his hand or affixed 

1 68 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

to the top of his staff;* but probably in the general case it was in the 
shape of sprigs of palm sewn crosswise upon the hat and scrip. 

The Roman pilgrimage seems always to have ranked next in popular 
estimation to that of the Holy Land ; f and with reason, for Rome was then 
the great centre of the religion and the civilization of Western Christ- 
endom. The plenary indulgence which Boniface VIII. published in 1300, 
to all who should make the Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome, no doubt had its 
effect in popularizing this pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum. Two hundred 
thousand pilgrims, it is said, visited Rome in one month during the first 
Jubilee ; and succeeding popes shortened the interval between these great 
spiritual fairs, first to fifty, then to thirty-three, and lastly to twenty-five 
years. The pilgrim to Rome doubtless visited many shrines in that great 
Christian capital, and was entitled to wear as many signs ; but the chief 
signs of the Roman pilgrimage were a badge with the effigies of St. Peter 
and St. Paul, the cross-keys, and the vernicle. Concerning the first, 
there is a grant from Innocent III. to the arch-priest and canons of St. 
Peter's at Rome, J which confirms to them (or to those to whom they shall 
concede it) the right to cast and to sell the lead or pewter signs, bearing 
the effigies of the Apostles Peter and Paul, with which those who have 
visited their threshold decorate themselves for the increase of their devo- 
tion and a testimony of their pilgrimage. Dr. Rock says§ "that a friend 
of his has one of these Roman pilgrim signs, which was dug up at Launde 
Abbey, Leicestershire. It is of copper, in the shape of a quatrefoil, one 
and three-quarter inches in diameter, and has the cross-keys on one side, 
the other side being plain. An equestrian pilgrim represented in Hans 
Burgmaier's " Der Weise Kcenige," seems to bear on his cloak and his hat 
the cross-keys. The vernicle was the kerchief of Veronica, with which, 

* One of the two pilgrims in our first cut, p. 158, carries a palm branch in his hand ; 
they represent the two disciples at Emmaus, who were returning from Jerusalem. 

t The existence of several accounts of the stations of Rome in English prose 
and poetry as early as the thirteenth century (published by the Early English Text 
Society), indicates the popularity of this pilgrimage. 

J Innocente III., Epist. 536, lib. i., t. c, p. 305, ed. Baluzio. (Dr. Rock's " Churcb 
of our Fathers.") 

§ "Church of our Fathers," vol. iii. p. 438, note. 

Pilgrim Signs. 169 

said a very popular legend, she wiped the brow of the Saviour, when he 
fainted under His cross in the Via Dolorosa, and which was found to have 
had miraculously transferred to it an imprint of the sacred countenance. 
Chaucer's Pardoner, as we have already seen — 

" Strait was comen from the Court of Rome," 
and, therefore, 

■ A vemicle had he sewed upon his cap." 

The sign of the Compostella pilgrimage was the scallop shell.* The 
legend which the old Spanish writers give in explanation of the badge is 
this : — When the body of the saint was being miraculously conveyed in a 
ship without sails or oars, from Joppa to Galicia, it passed the village of 
Bonzas, on the coast of Portugal, on the day that a marriage had been 
celebrated there. The bridegroom with his friends were amusing them- 
selves on horseback on the sands, when his horse became unmanageable 
and plunged into the sea ; whereupon the miraculous ship stopped in its 
voyage, and presently the bridegroom emerged, horse and man, close 
beside it. A conversation ensued between the knight and the saint's 
disciples on board, in which they apprised him that it was the saint who 
had saved him from a watery grave, and explained the Christian religion to 
him. He believed, and was baptized there and then. And immediately 
the ship resumed its voyage, and the knight came galloping back over the 
sea to rejoin his astonished friends. He told them all that had happened, 
and they too were converted, and the knight baptized his bride with his 
own hand. Now, when the knight emerged from the sea, both his dress 
and the trappings of his horse were covered with scallop shells; and, 
therefore, the Galicians took the scallop shell as the sign of St James. 
The legend is found represented in churches dedicated to St. James, and 
in ancient illuminated MSS.t The scallop shell is not unfrequently found 
in armorial bearings. It is hardly probable that it would be given to a 

• It is seen on the scrip of Lydgate's Pilgrim in the woodcut on p. 163. See a paper 
on the Pilgrim's Shell, by Mr. J. E. Tennant, in the St. James's Magazine, No. 10, 
for Jan., 1862. 

f " Anales de Galicia," vol. i. p. 95. S^uthey's "Pilgrim to Compostella." 

170 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

man merely because he had made the common pilgrimage to Compostella ; 
perhaps it was earned by service under the banner of Santiago, against the 
Moors in the Spanish crusades. The Popes Alexander III., Gregory IX., 
and Clement V., granted a faculty to the Archbishops of Compostella, to 
excommunicate those who sell these shells to pilgrims anywhere except in 
the city of Santiago, and they assign this reason, because the shells are 
the badge of the Apostle Santiago.* The badge was not always an actual 
shell, but sometimes a jewel made in the shape of a scallop, shell. In the 
"Journal of the Archaeological Association," iii. 126, is a woodcut of a 
scallop shell of silver gilt, with a circular piece of jet set in the middle, on 
which is carved an equestrian figure of Santiago. 

The chief sign of the Canterbury pilgrimage was an ampul [ampulla, a 
flask) ; we are told all about its origin and meaning by Abbot Benedict, 
who wrote a book on the miracles of St. Thomas.f The monks had 
carefully collected from the pavement the blood of the martyr which had 
been shed upon it, and preserved it as one of the precious relics. A sick 
lady who visited the shrine, begged for a drop of this blood as a medicine ; 
it worked a miraculous cure, and the fame of the miracle spread far and 
wide, and future pilgrims were not satisfied unless they too might be per- 
mitted the same high privilege. A drop of it used to be mixed with a 
chalice full of water, that the colour and flavour might not offend the 
senses, and they were allowed to taste of it. It wrought, says the abbot, 
miraculous cures ; and so, not only vast crowds came to take this strange 
and unheard-of medicine, but those who came were anxious to take some 
of it home for their sick friends and neighbours. At first they put it into 
wooden vessels, but these were split by the liquid ; and many of the frag- 
ments of these vessels were hung up about the martyr's tomb in token of 
this wonder. At last it came into the head of a certain young man to cast 
little flasks — ampulla. — of lead and pewter. And then the miracle of the 
breaking ceased, and they knew that it was the Divine will that the Canter- 
bury medicine should be carried in these ampullae throughout the world, 

• " Anales de Galicia," vol. i. p. 96, quoted by Southey, " Pilgrim to Compostella." 
t Dr. Rock's "Church of our Fathers," iii. 424. 

Pilgrim Signs. 


and that these ampullae should be recognised by all the world as the sign 
of this pilgrimage and these wonderful cures. At first the pilgrims had 
carried the wooden vases concealed under their clothes ; but these ampullae 
r-ere carried suspended round the neck ; and when the pilgrims reached 
lome, says another authority,* they hung these ampullae in their churches 
for sacred relics, that the glory of the blessed martyr might be known 
roughout the world. Some of these curious relics still exist. They are 
flat on one side, and slightly rounded on the other, with two little 

The Canterbury Ampulla. 

or loops through which a cord might be passed to suspend them, 
le mouth might have been closed by solder, or even by folding over the 
edges of the metal. There is a little flask figured in Gardner's " History 
of Dunwich," pi. iii., which has a T upon the side of it, and which may 
very probably have been one of these ampullae. But one of a much more 
elaborate and interesting type is here engraved, from an example preserved 
in the museum at York. The principal figure is a somewhat stem repre- 

1 Vita S. Thomae apud Willebald," folio Stephani, ed. Giles, i. 312. 

172 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

sentation of the blessed archbishop ; above is a rude representation of his 
shrine ; and round the margin is the rhyming legend — " Optimus egrorum : 
Medieus fit Thoma bonorum " (" Thomas is the best physician for the pious 
sick "). On the reverse of the ampul is a design whose intention is not 
very clear ; two monks or priests are apparently saying some service out of 
a book, and one of them is laying down a pastoral staff; perhaps it repre- 
sents the shrine with its attendants. From the style of art, this design 
may be of the early part of the thirteenth century. But though this 
ampul is clearly designated by the monkish writers, whom we have quoted, 
as the special sign of the Canterbury pilgrimage, there was another sign 
which seems to have been peculiar to it, and that is a bell. Whether these 
bells were hand-bells, which the pilgrims carried in their hands, and rang 
from time to time, or whether they were little bells, like hawks' bells, 
fastened to their dress — as such bells sometimes were to a canon's cope — 
does not certainly appear. W. Thorpe, in the passage hereafter quoted at 
length from Fox, speaks of " the noise of their singing and the sound of 
their piping, and the jangling of their Canterbury bells," as a body of 
pilgrims passed through a town. One of the prettiest of our wild-flowers, 
the Campanula rotundifolia, which has clusters of blue, bell-like flowers, 
has obtained the common name of Canterbury Bells.* There were other 
religious trinkets also sold and used by pilgrims as mementoes of their 
visit to the famous shrine. The most common of them seems to have 
been the head of St. Thomas,f cast in various ornamental devices, in 
silver or pewter j sometimes it was adapted to hang to a rosary,| more 
usually, in the examples which remain to us, it was made into a brooch to 
be fastened upon the cap or hood, or dress. In Mr. C. R. Smith's 
"Collectanea Antiqua," vol. i. pi. 3T, 32, 33, and vol. ii. pi. 16, 17, 18, 
there are representations of no less than fifty-one English and foreign 

* The lily of the valley was another Canterbury flower. It is still plentiful in the 
gardens in the precincts of the cathedral. 

f The veneration of the times was concentrated upon the blessed head which suffered 
the stroke of martyrdom ; it was exhibited at the shrine and kissed by the pilgrims ; there 
was an abbey in Derbyshire dedicated to the Beauchef (beautiful head), and still called 
Beauchief Abbey. 

J The late T. Caldecot, Esq., of Dartford, possessed one of these. 

Pilgrim Signs. 173 

pilgrims' signs, of which a considerable proportion are heads of St. 
Thomas. The whole collection is very curious and interesting.* 

The ampul was not confined to St. Thomas of Canterbury. When his 
ampuls became so very popular, the guardians of the other famous shrines 
adopted it, and manufactured " waters," " aquae reliquiarum," of their own. 
The relic of the saint, which they were so fortunate as to possess, was 
washed with or dipped in holy water, which was thereupon supposed to 
possess — diluted — the virtues of the relic itself. Thus there was a " Dur- 
ham water," being the water in which the incorruptible body of St. Cuth- 
bert had been washed at its last exposure ; and Reginald of Durham, in 
his book on the admirable virtues of the blessed Cuthbert,f tells us how it 
used to be carried away in ampuls, and mentions a special example in 
which a little of this pleasant medicine poured into the mouth of a sick 
man, cured him on the spot. The same old writer tells us how the 
water held in a bowl that once belonged to Editha, queen and saint, in 
which a little bit of rag, which had once formed part of St. Cuthbert's 
garments, was soaked, acquired from these two relics so much virtue 
that it brought back health and strength to a dying clerk who drank it 
In Gardner's " History of Dunwich " (pi. Hi.) we find drawings of ampullae 
like those of St. Thomas, one of which has upon its front a W surmounted 
by a crown, which it is conjectured may be the pilgrim sign of Our Lady 
of Walsingham, and contained, perhaps, water from the holy wells at Wal- 
singham, hereinafter described. Another has an R surmounted by one of 
the symbols of the Blessed Virgin, a lily in a pot ; the author hazards a 
conjecture that it may be the sign of St. Richard of Chichester. The 
pilgrim who brought away one of these flasks of medicine, or one of these 
blessed relics, we may suppose, did not always hang it up in church as an 
ex voto, but sometimes preserved it carefully in his house for use in time 
of sickness, and would often be applied to by a sick neighbour for the gift 
of a portion of the precious fluid out of his ampul, or for a touch of the 
trinket which had touched the saint. In the " Collectanea Antiqua," is a 

* A very beautiful little pilgrim sign of lead found at Winchester is engraved in the 
" Journal of the British Archaeological Association," No. 32, p. 363. 
t Dr. Rock's " Church of our Fathers," yoL iii. p. 430. 

1 74 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

facsimile of a piece of paper bearing a rude woodcut of the adoration 
of the Magi, and an inscription setting forth that " Ces billets ont touche* 
aux troi testes de saints Rois a Cologne : ils sont pour les voyageurs 
contre les malheurs des chemins, maux de teste, mal caduque, fieures, 
sorcellerie, toute sorte de malefice, et morte soubite." It was found upon 
the person of one William Jackson, who having been sentenced for murder 
in June, 1748-9, was found dead in prison a few hours before the time of 
his execution. It was the charmed billet, doubtless, which preserved him 
from the more ignominious death. 

We find a description of a pilgrim in full costume, and decorated with 
signs, in " Piers Ploughman's Vision." He was apparelled — 

" In pilgrym's wise. 
He bare a burdoun* y-bounde with a broad list, 
In a withwinde-wise y-wounden about ; 
A bollef and a bagge he bare by his side, 
An hundred of ampulles ; on his hat seten 
Signes of SynayJ and shells of Galice,§ 
And many a crouche|| on his cloke and keys of Rome, 
And the vernicle before, for men sholde knowe, 
And se bi his signes, whom he sought hadde. 

These folk prayedU hym first fro whence he came ? 
'From Synay,' he seide, 'and from our Lordes Sepulcre: 
In Bethlem and in Babiloyne I have ben in bothe ; 
In Armonye** and Alesaundre, in many other places. 

* Fosbroke has fallen into the error of calling this a burden bound to the pilgrim's 
back with a list : it is the bourdon, the pilgrim's staff, round which a list, a long narrow 
strip of cloth, was wound cross-wise. We do not elsewhere meet with this list round the 
staff, and it does not appear what was its use or meaning. We may call to mind the list 
wound cross-wise round a barber's pole, and imagine that this list was attached to the 
pilgrim's staff for use, or we may remember that a vexillum, or banner, is attached to a 
bishop's staff, and that a long, narrow riband is often affixed to the cross-headed staff 
which is placed in our Saviour's hand in mediaeval representations of the Resurrection. 
The staff in our cut, p. 163, looks as if it might have such a list wound round it. 

t Fosbrooke, and Wright, and Dr. Rock, all understand this to be a bowl. Was it a 
bottle to carry drink, shaped something like a gourd, such as we not unfrequently find 
hung on the hook of a shepherd's staff in pictures of the annunciation to the shepherds, 
and such as the pilgrim from Erasmus's " Praise of Folly," bears on his back ? 

% Sinai. § Galice — Compostella in Galicia. || Cross. 

H Asked : people ask him first of all from whence he is come. 

** Armenia. 

Pilgrim Signs. 175 

Ye may se by my signes, that sitten in my hat, 
That I have walked ful wide in weet and in drye, 
And sought good seintes for my soules helthe.' " 

The little bit of satire, for the sake of which this model pilgrim is 

introduced, is too telling — especially after the wretched superstitions which 

we have been noticing — to be omitted here. " Knowest thou ? " asks the 

Ploughman — 

" ' Kondest thou aught a cor-saint* that men calle Truthe ? 

Canst thou aught wetenf us the way where that wight dwelleth ? 

" Nay," replies the much-travelled pilgrim — 

" ' Nay, so me God helpe, 

I saw nevere palmere with pyke and with scrippe 
Ask after hym, ever til now in this place.' " 

Holy body, object of pilgrimage. + Tell u. 



E shall not wonder that these various pilgrimages were so pepular 
as they were, when we learn that there were not only physical 
panaceas to be obtained, and spiritual pardons and immunities 
to be procured at the shrines of the saints, but that moreover the journey 
to them was otten made a very pleasant holiday excursion. 

Far be it from us to deny that there was many a pilgrim who undertook 
his pilgrimage in anything but a holiday spirit, and who made it anything 
but a gay excursion ; many a man who sought, howbeit mistakenly, to 
atone for wrong done, by making himself an outcast upon earth, and sub- 
mitting to the privations of mendicant pilgrimage ; many a one who sought 
thus to escape out of reach of the stings of remorse ; many a one who tore 
himself from home and the knowledge of friends, and went to foreign 
countries to hide his shame from the eyes of those who knew him. Certainly, 
here and there, might have been met a man or a woman, whose coarse 
sackcloth robe, girded to the naked skin, and unshod feet, were signs of 
real if mistaken penitence ; and who carried grievous memories and a sad 
heart through every mile of his weary way. We give here, from Hans 
Burgmaier's " Images de Saints, &c, de la Famille de PEmpereur Maxi- 
milian I.," a very excellent illustration of a pilgrim of this class. But this 
was not the general character of the home pilgrimages of which we are 
especially speaking. In the great majority of cases they seem to have 
been little more than a pleasant religious holiday.* No doubt the general 

♦ The Knight of La Tour Landry, in one of his stories, tells us : " There was a young 
lady that had her herte raoche on the worlde. And there was a squier that loved her and 



itention was devotional ; very likely it was often in a moment of religious 
fervour that the vow was taken ; the religious ceremony with which the 
journey was begun, must have had a solemnising effect ; and doubtless 
when the pilgrim knelt at the shrine, an unquestioning faith in all the tales 
which he had heard of its sanctity and occasional miraculous power, and 
the imposing effect of the scene, would affect his mind with an unusual 
religious warmth and exaltation. But between 
the beginning and the end of the pilgrimage 
there was a long interval, which we say — 
not in a censorious spirit — was usually occu- 
pied by a very pleasant excursion. The same 
fine work which has supplied us with so ex- 
cellent an illustration of an ascetic pilgrim, 
affords another equally valuable companion- 
picture of a pilgrim of the more usual class. 
He travels on foot, indeed, staff in hand, 
but he is comfortably shod and clad ; and 
while the one girds his sackcloth shirt to his 
bare body with an iron chain, the other has 
his belt well furnished with little conveni- 
ences of travel. It is quite clear that the 
journey was not necessarily on foot, the 
voluntary pilgrims might ride if they preferred 
it.* Nor did they beg their bread as peni- 
tential pilgrims did; but put good store of 

Pilgrim in Hair Shirt and Cloak. 

she hym. And for because that she might have better leiser to speke with hym. she made 
her husbande to understande that she had vowed in diverse pilgrimages ; and her husband, 
as he that thought none evelle and wolde not displese her, suffered and held hym content 

that she should go wherin her lust Alle thei that gone on pilgrimage to 

a place for foul plesaunce more than devocion of the place that thei go to, and covereth 
thaire goinge with service of God, fowlethe and scornethe God and our Ladie, and the 
place that thei goo to." — Book of La Tour Landry, chap, xxxiv. 

* "I was a poor pilgrim," says one ("History of the Troubadours," p. 300), "when 
I came to your court ; and have lived honestly and respectably in it on the wages you 
have given me ; restore to me my mule, my wallet, and my staff, and I will return in the 
same manner as I came." 


178 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

money in their purse at starting, and ambled easily along the green roads, 
and lived well at the comfortable inns along their way. 

In many instances when the time of pilgrimage is mentioned, we find 
that it was the spring ; Chaucer's pilgrims started — 

" When that April with his showeres sote 
The drouth of March had perced to the root ;" 

and Fosbroke " apprehends that Lent was the usual time for these pil- 

It was the custom for the pilgrims to associate in companies ; indeed, 
since they travelled the same roads, about the same time of year, and 
stopped at the same inns and hospitals, it was inevitable ; and; they seem 
to have taken pains to make the journey agreeable to one another. 
Chaucer's " hoste of the Tabard " says to his guests : — 

" Ye go to Canterbury : God you speed, 
The blisful martyr quite* you your mede ; 
And well I wot, as ye go by the way, 
Ye shapen you to talken and to play ; 
For trewely comfort and worthe is none, 
To riden by the way dumb as a stone." 

Even the poor penitential pilgrim who travelled barefoot did not travel, all 
the way at least, on the hard and rough highway. Special roads seem to 
have been made to the great shrines. Thus the " Pilgrim's Road " may 
still be traced across Kent, almost from London to Canterbury; and if 
the Londoner wishes for a pleasant and interesting home excursion, he 
may put a scrip on his back, and take a bourdon in his hand, and make a 
summer's pilgrimage on the track of Chaucer's pilgrims. The pilgrim's 
road to Walsingham is still known as the " Palmer's Way " and the " Wal- 
singham Green Way." It may be traced along the principal part of its 
course for sixty miles in the diocese of Norwich. The common people 
used to call the Milky Way the Walsingham Way. 

Dr. Rock tells us * that " besides its badge, each pilgrimage had also its 
gathering cry, which the pilgrims shouted out as, at the grey of morn, they 

* " Church of our Fathers," vol. iii. p. 442. 

Pilgrimage. I7Q 

slowly crept through the town or hamlet where they had slept that night." 
By calling aloud upon God for help, and begging the intercession of that 
saint to whose shrine they were wending, they bade all their fellow pilgrims 
to come forth upon their road and begin another day's march.* 

After having said their prayers and told their beads, occasionally did 
they strive to shorten the weary length of the way by song and music. As 
often as a crowd of pilgrims started together from one place, they seem 
always to have hired a few singers and one or two musicians to go with 
them. Just before reaching any town, they drew themselves up into a line, 
and thus walked through its streets in procession, singing and ringing their 
little hand-bells, with a player on the bagpipes at their head. They ought 
in strictness, perhaps, to have been psalms which they sung, and the tales 
with which they were accustomed to lighten the way ought to have been 
saintly legends and godly discourses ; but in truth they were of very varied 
character, according to the character of the individual pilgrims. The 
songs were often love-songs ; and though Chaucer's poor parson of a town 
preached a sermon and was listened to, yet the romances of chivalry or the 
loose faiblieux which were current probably formed the majority of the 
real " Canterbury tales." In Foxe's " Acts and Monuments," we have a 
very graphic and amusing little sketch of a company of pilgrims passing 
through a town : — 

W. Thorpe tells Archbishop Arundel, " When diverse men and women 
will go thus after their own willes, and finding out one pilgrimage, they 
will order with them before to have with them both men and women that 
can well synge wanton songs; and some other pilgrims will have with 
them bagge-pipes, so that every towne they come throwe, what with the 
noyse of their singing and with the sound of their pipyng, and with the 
jingling of their Canterbury belles, and with barking out of dogges after 
them, that they make more noise than if the kinge came there awaye with 
all his clarions, and many other minstrelles. And if these men and women 
be a moneth on their pilgrimage, many of them shall be an half year after 

* Thus Pope Calixtus tells us (" Sermones Bib. Pat.," ed. Bignio, xv. 350) that the 
pilgrims to Santiago were accustomed before dawn, at the top of each town, to cry with 
a loud voice, " Deus Adjuva !" " Sancte Jacobe i" " God Help ! " " Santiago ! " 

1 80 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

great janglers, tale-tellers, and liars." The archbishop defends the fashion, 
and gives us further information on the subject, saying " that pilgremys 
have with them both syngers and also pipers, that when one of them that 
goeth barefoote striketh his toe upon a stone, and hurteth him sore, and 
maketh him to blede, it is well done that he or his fellow begyn than a 
songe, or else take out of his bosom a bagge-pipe, for to drive away with 
such myrthe the hurte of his fellow ; for with soche solace the travell and 
weriness of pylgremes is lightly and merily broughte forth." 

Erasmus's colloquy entitled " Peregrinatio Religionis ergo," enables us 
to accompany the pilgrim to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and 
to join him in his devotions at the shrine. We shall throw together the 
most interesting portions of the narrative from Mr. J. G. Nichols's transla- 
tion of it. " It is," he says, " the most celebrated place throughout all 
England,* nor could you easily find in that island the man who ventures 
to reckon on prosperity unless he yearly salute her with some small offer- 
ing according to his ability." " The town of Walsingham," he says, " is 
maintained by scarcely anything else but the number of its visitors." The 
shrine of Our Lady was not within the priory church ; but on the north 
side was the wooden chapel dedicated to " Our Lady," about twenty-three 
feet by thirteen, enclosed within a chapel of stone forty-eight feet by 
thirty, which Erasmus describes as unfinished. On the west of the church 
was another wooden building, in which were two holy wells also dedicated 
to the Virgin. Erasmus describes these " holy places." " Within the 
church, which I have called unfinished, is a small chapel made of wainscot, 
and admitting the devotees on each side by a narrow little door. The 
light is small, indeed scarcely any but from the wax lights. A most grateful 
fragrance meets the nostrils. When you look in, you would say it was 
the mansion of the saints, so much does it glitter on all sides with jewels, 
gold, and silver. In the inner chapel one canon attends to receive and 
take charge of the offerings," which the pilgrims placed upon the altar. 
" To the east of this is a chapel full of wonders. Thither I go. Another 
guide receives me. There we worshipped for a short time. Presently the 

* Surely he should have excepted St. Thomas's shrine? 

Wahingham. 181 

joint of a man's finger is exhibited to us, the largest of three ; I kiss it ; 
and then I ask whose relics were these? He says, St. Peter's. The 
Apostle ? I ask. He said, Yes. Then observing the size of the joint, 
which might have been that of a giant, I remarked, Peter must have been 
a man of very large size. At this, one of my companions burst into a 
laugh ; which I certainly took ill, for if he had been quiet the attendant 
would have shown us all the relics. However, we pacified him by offering 
a few pence. Before the chapel was a shed, which they say was suddenly, 
in the winter season, when everything was covered with snow, brought 
thither from a great distance. Under this shed are two wells full to the 
brink ; they say the spring is sacred to the Holy Virgin. The water is 
wonderfully cold, and efficacious in curing the pains of the head and 
stomach. We next turned towards the heavenly milk of the Blessed Virgin" 
(kept apparently in another chapel) ; " that milk is kept on the high-altar ; 
in the centre of which is Christ ; at his right hand for honour's sake, his 
mother ; for the milk personifies the mother. As soon as the canon in 
attendance saw us, he rose, put on his surplice, added the stole to his neck, 
prostrated himself with due ceremony, and worshipped ; anon he stretched 
forth the thrice-holy milk to be kissed by us. On this, we also, on the 
lowest step of the altar, religiously fell prostrate ; and having first called 
upon Christ, we addressed the Virgin with a little prayer like this, which I 
had prepared for the purpose 

" ' A very pious prayer ; what reply did she make ? ' 

" Each appeared to assent, if my eyes were not deceived. For the holy 
milk seemed to leap a little, and the Eucharist shone somewhat brighter. 
Meanwhile the ministering canon approached us, saying nothing, but hold- 
ing out a little box, such as are presented by the toll collectors on the 
bridges in Germany. I gave a few pence, which he offered to the Virgin." 

The visitor on this occasion being a distinguished person, and performing 
a trifling service for the canons, was presented by the sub-prior with a relic. 
" He then drew from a bag a fragment of wood, cut from a beam on which 
the Virgin Mother had been seen to rest. A wonderful fragrance at once 
proved it to be a thing extremely sacred. For my part, having received 
so distinguished a present, prostrate and with uncovered head, I kissed it 

1 82 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

three or four times with the highest veneration, and placed it in my purse. 
I would not exchange that fragment, small as it is, for all the gold in 
the Tagus. I will enclose it in gold, but so that it may shine through 

He is also shown some relics not shown to ordinary visitors. " Several 
wax candles are lighted, and a small image is produced, neither excelling 
in material nor workmanship ; but in virtue most efficacious. He then 
exhibited the golden and silver statues. ' This one,' says he, ' is entirely 
of gold ; this is silver gilt ; he added the weight of each, its value, and the 
name of the donor.* Then he drew forth from the altar itself, a world of 

* In the Guardian newspaper of Sept. 5, i860, a visitor to Rome gives a de- 
scription of the exhibition of relics there, which forms an interesting parallel with the 
account in the text : " Shortly before Ash-Wednesday a public notice ('Invito Sagro ') 
is issued by authority, setting forth that inasmuch as certain of the principal relics and 
' sacra immagini ' are to be exposed during the ensuing season of Lent, in certain churches 
specified, the confraternities of Rome are exhorted by the pope to resort in procession to 

tliose churches The ceremony is soon described. The procession entered 

slowly at the west door, moved up towards the altar, and when the foremost were within 
a few yards of it, all knelt down for a few minutes on the pavement of the church to 
worship. At a signal given by one of the party, they rose, and slowly defiled off in 
the direction of the chapel wherein is preserved the column of the flagellation (?). By 
the way, no one of the other sex may ever enter that chapel, except on cne day in the 
year — the very day of which I am speaking ; and on that day men are as rigorously excluded. 
Well, all knelt again for a few minutes, then rose, and moved slowly towards the door, 
departing as they came, and making way for another procession to enter. It was altogether 
a most interesting and agreeable spectacle. Utterly alien to our English tastes and habits 
certainly ; but the institution evidently suited the tastes of the people exactly, and I dare 
say may be conducive to piety, and recommend itself to their religious instincts. Coming 
from their several parishes, and returning, they chant psalms. 

" It follows naturally to speak a little more particularly about the adoration of relics, 
for this is just another of those many definite religious acts which make up the sum of 
popular devotion, and supply the void occasioned by the entire discontinuance of the old 
breviary offices. In the ' Diario Romano ' (a little book describing what is publicly 
transacted, of a religious character, during every day in the year), daily throughout Lent, 
and indeed on every occasion of unusual solemnity (of which, I think, there are eighty- 
five in all), you read ' Stazione ' at such a church. This (whatever it may imply beside) 
denotes that relics are displayed for adoration in that church on the day indicated. The 
pavement is accordingly strewed with box, lights bum on the altar, and there is a constant 
influx of visitors to that church throughout the day. For example, at St. Prisca's, a little 
church on the Aventine, there was a ' Stazione,' 3rd April. In the Romish Missal you 
will perceive that on the Feria tertia Majoris hebdomadae (this year April 3), there is 

Relic Worship. 183 

admirable things, the individual articles of which, if I were to proceed to 
describe, this day would not suffice for the relation. So that pilgrimage 
terminated most fortunately for me. I was abundantly gratified with 
sights ; and I bring away this inestimable gift, a token bestowed by the 
Virgin herself. 

" ' Have you made no trial of the powers of your wood ?' 

" I have : in an inn, before the end of three days, I found a man afflicted 

Statio ad S. Priscam. A very interesting church, by the way, it proved, being evi- 
dently built on a site of immense antiquity — traditionally said to be the house of Prisca. 
You descend by thirty-one steps into the subterranean edifice. At this little out-of-the- 
way church, there were strangers arriving all the time we were there. Thirty voung 
Dominicans from S. Sabina, hard by, streamed down into the crypt, knelt for a time, 
and then repaired to perform a similar act of worship above, at the altar. The friend 
who conducted me to the spot, showed me, in the vineyard immediately opposite, some 
extraordinary remains of the wall of Servius Tullius. On our return we observed fresh 
parties straggling towards the church, bent on performing their ' visits.' It should, per- 
haps, be mentioned that prayers have been put forth by authority, to be used on such 

" I must not pass by this subject of relics so slightly, for it evidently occupies a con- 
siderable place in the public devotions of a Roman Catholic. Thus the ' Invito Sagro,' 
already adverted to, specifies which relics will be displayed in each of the six churches 
enumerated — {e.g. the heads of SS. Peter and Paul, their chains, some wood of the 
cross, &c.) — granting seven years of indulgence for every visit, by whomsoever paid ; 
and promising plenary indulgence to every person who, after confessing and communi- 
cating, shall thrice visit each of the aforesaid churches, and pray for awhile on behalf of 
holy church. There are besides, on nine chief festivals, as many great displays of relics 
at Rome, the particulars of which may be seen in the ' Annee Liturgique,' pp. 189 — 206. 
I witnessed one, somewhat leisurely, at the Church of the Twelve Apostles, on the after- 
noon of the 1st of May. There was a congregation of about two or three hundred in 
church, while somebody in a lofty gallery displayed the relics, his companion proclaiming 
with a loud voice what each was : * Questo e il braccio,' &c, &c, which such an one 
gave to this • alma basilica,' — the formula being in every instance very sonorouslv 
intoned. There was part of the arm of S. Bartholomew and of S. James the Less ; 
part of S. Andrew's leg, arm, and cross ; part of one of S. Paul's fingers ; one of the 
nails with which S. Peter was crucified ; S. Philip's right foot ; liquid blood of S. James; 
some of the remains of S. John the Evangelist, of the Baptist, of Joseph, and of the 
Blessed Virgin ; together with part of the manger, cradle, cross, and tomb of our Lord, 

&c, &c I have dwelt somewhat disproportionally on relics, but they play 

so conspicuous a part in the religious system of the country, that in enumerating the 
several substitutes which have been invented for the old breviary services, it would not 
be nearly enough to have discussed the subject in a few lines. A visit paid to a church 
where such objects are exposed, is a distinct as well as popular religious exercise ; and it 
always seemed to me to be performed with great reverence and devotion." 

1 84 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

in mind, for whom charms were then in preparation. This piece of wood 
was placed under his pillow, unknown to himself; kt fell into a sleep 
equally deep and prolonged ; in the morning he rose of whole mind." 

Chaucer left his account of the Canterbury Pilgrimage incomplete ; but 
another author, soon after Chaucer's death, wrote a supplement to his 
great work, which, however inferior in genius to the work of the great 
master, yet admirably serves our purpose of giving a graphic contemporary 
picture of the doings of a company of pilgrims to St. Thomas, when 
arrived at their destination. Erasmus, too, in the colloquy already so 
largely quoted, enables us to add some details to the picture. The 
pilgrims of Chaucer's continuator arrived in Canterbury at " mydmorowe." 
Erasmus tells us what they saw as they approached the city. " The church 
dedicated to St. Thomas, erects itself to heaven with such majesty, thai 

even from a distance it strikes religious awe into the beholders 

There are two vast towers that seem to salute the visitor from afar, and 
make the surrounding country far and wide resound with the wonderful 
booming of their brazen bells." Being arrived, they took up their lodgings 
at the " Chequers." * 

" They toke their In and loggit them at midmorowe I trowe 
Atte Cheker of the hope, that many a man doth know." 

And mine host of the " Tabard," in Southwark, their guide, having given 
the necessary orders for their dinner, they all proceeded to the cathedral 
to make their offerings at the shrine of St. Thomas. At the church door 
they were sprinkled with holy water as they entered. The knight and the 
better sort of the company went straight to their devotions ; but some of 
the pilgrims of a less educated class, began to wander about the nave of 
the church, curiously admiring all the objects around them. The miller 
and his companions entered into a warm discussion concerning the armc 
in the painted glass windows. At length the host of the " Tabard " called 
them together and reproved them for their negligence, whereupon they 
hastened to make their offerings : — 

* From Mr. Wright's " Archaeological Album," f J9. 


« 85 

" Then passed they forth boystly gogling with their hedds 
Kneeled down to-fore the shrine, and hertily their beads 
They prayed to St. Thomas, in such wise as they couth ; 
And sith the holy relikes each man with his mouth 
Kissed, as a goodly monk the names told and taught. 
And sith to other places of holyness they ranght, 
And were in their devocioune tyl service were al done." 

Erasmus gives a very detailed account of these " holy relikes," and of the 
other places of holiness": — 

" On your entrance [by the south porch] the edifice at once displays itself 

all its spaciousness and majesty. To that part any one is admitted. 
?here are some books fixed to the pillars, and the monument of I know 
lot whom. The iron screens stop further progress, but yet admit a view 
)f the whole space, from the choir to the end of the church. To the choir 
rou mount by many steps, under which is a passage leading to the north. 
it that spot is shown a wooden altar, dedicated to the Virgin, but mean, 
lor remarkable in any respect, unless as a monument of antiquity, putting 

shame the extravagance of these times. There the pious old man is 
lid to have breathed his last farewell to the Virgin when his death was at 

id. On the altar is the point of the sword with which the head of the 
lost excellent prelate was cleft, and his brain stirred, that he might be the 
lore instantly despatched. The sacred rust of this iron, through love of 
le martyr, we religiously kissed. Leaving this spot, we descended to the 
ypt. It has its own priests. There was first exhibited the perforated 
cull of the martyr, the forehead is left bare to be kissed, while the other 
are covered with silver. At the same time is shown a slip of lead, 
lgraved with his name Thomas Acrensis* There also hang in the dark 
le hair shirts, the girdles and bandages with which that prelate subdued 
flesh ; striking horror with their very appearance, and reproaching us 
ith our indulgence and our luxuries. From hence we returned into the 
loir. On the north side the aumbries were unlocked. It is wonderful to 
;11 what a quantity of bones was there brought out : skulls, jaw-bones, teeth, 

ids, fingers, entire arms ; on all which we devoutly bestowed our kisses; 

* This slip of lead had probably been put into his coffin, 
lomas of Acre. 

He is sometimes called 

1 86 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

and the exhibition seemed likely to last for ever, if my somewhat unmanage- 
able companion in that pilgrimage had not interrupted the zeal of the 

" ■ Did he offend the priest ?' 

"When an arm was brought forward which had still the bloody flesh 
adhering, he drew back from kissing it, and even betrayed some weariness. 
The priest presently shut up his treasures. We next viewed the table of 
the altar, and its ornaments, and then the articles which are kept under the 
altar, all most sumptuous ; you would say Midas and Croesus were beggars 
if you saw that vast assemblage of gold and silver. After this we were 
led into the sacristy. What a display was there of silken vestments, what 
an array of golden candlesticks ! From this place we were con- 
ducted back to the upper floor, for behind the high-altar you ascend again 
as into a new church. There, in a little chapel, is shown the whole 
figure of the excellent man, gilt and adorned with many jewels. Then 
the head priest (prior) came forward. He opened to us the shrine in 
which what is left of the body of the holy man is said to rest. A wooden 
canopy covers the shrine, and when that is drawn up with ropes, inestim- 
able treasures are opened to view. The least valuable part was gold ; 
every part glistened, shone, and sparkled with rare and very large jewels, 
some of them exceeding the size of a goose's egg. There some monks 
stood around with much veneration j the cover being raised we all wor- 
shipped. The prior with a white rod pointed out each jewel, telling its 
name in French, its value, and the name of its donor, for the principal 

of them were offerings sent by sovereign princes From hence we 

returned to the crypt, where the Virgin Mother has her abode, but a some- 
what dark one, being edged in by more than one screen. 

" ' What was she afraid of?' 

" Nothing, I imagine, but thieves ; for I have never seen anything 
more burdened with riches. When lamps were brought, we beheld a 

more than royal spectacle Lastly we were conducted back to the 

sacristy ; there was brought out a box covered with black leather ; it was 
laid upon the table and opened ; immediately all knelt and worshipped. 

" ' What was in it ?' 

5/. Edmund? s Bury. 187 

" Some torn fragments of linen, and most of them retaining marks or 
dirt After offering us a cup of wine, the prior courteously dis- 
missed us. w 

When Chaucer's pilgrims had seen such of this magnificence as existed 
in their earlier time, noon approaching, they gathered together and went to 
their dinner. Before they left the church, however, they bought signs "as 
the manner was," to show to all men that they had performed this meri- 
torious act 

" There as manere and custom is, signes there they bought 
For men of contre' should know whom they had sought. 
Each man set his silver in such thing as they liked, 
And in the meen while the miller had y-piked 
His bosom full of signys of Canterbury broches. 
Others set their signys upon their hedes, and some upon their cap, 
And sith to dinner-ward they gan for to stapp." 

The appearance of these shrines and their surroundings is brought 
before our eyes by the pictures in a beautiful volume of Lydgate's " History 
of St. Edmund " in the British Museum (Harl. 2,278). At f. 40 is a repre- 
sentation of the shrine of St. Edmund in the abbey church of St Edmund's 
Bury. At f. 9 a still better representation of it, showing the iron grille 
which enclosed it, a monk worshipping at it, and a clerk with a wand, pro- 
bably the custodian whose duty it was to show the various jewels and 
relics — as the prior did to Erasmus at Canterbury. At f. 47 is another 
shrine, with some people about it who have come in the hope of receiving 
miraculous cures ; still another at f. 100 v., with pilgrims praying round it. 
At f. 109 a shrine, with two monks in a stall beside it saying an office, a 
clerk and others present At f. 10 v. a shrine with a group of monks. 
Other representations of shrines (all no doubt intended to represent the 
one shrine of St. Edmund, but differing in details) are to be found at 
f. 108 v., 117, &c. In the MS. Roman " D' Alexandre," of the latter half of 
the fourteenth century, in the Bodleian Library, at f. 2,660, is a very good 
representation of the shrine of St. Thomas the Apostle, with several people 
about it, and in front are two pilgrims in rough habits, a broad hat slung 
over the shoulder, and a staff. 

We have hitherto spoken of male pilgrims ; but it must be borne in 

1 88 

The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

mind that women of all ranks were frequently to be found on pilgrimage ; * 
and all that has been said of the costume and habits of the one sex applies 

ye*- -t- — 'SJOf- "ft 

Female Pilgrim. (Strutt, pi. 134.) 
equally to the other. We give here a cut of a female pilgrim with scrip, 
staff, and hat, from PI. 134 of Strutt's "Dresses and Habits of the People 
of England," who professes to take it from the Harleian 
MS. 621. We also give a picture of a pilgrim monk (Cotton. 
MS. Tiberius, A. 7.) who bears the staff and scrip, but is 
otherwise habited in the proper costume of his order. 

When the pilgrim had returned safely home, it was but 
natural and proper that as he had been sent forth with the 
blessing and prayers of the church, he should present him- 
self again in church to give thanks for the accomplishment 
of his pilgrimage and his safe return. We do not find in 
the service-books — as we might have expected — any special 
service for this occasion, but we find sufficient indications 
that it was the practice. Knighton tells us, for example.. 
Pilgrim Monk. f the famous Guy, Earl of Warwick, that on his return 

* Of Chaucer's Wife of Bath we read : — 

" Thrice had she been at Jerusalem, 
And hadde" passed many a strange stream ; 
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloyne, 
la Galice, at bt. James, and at Coloyu •.-.. ' 

The Return from Pilgrimage. 

1 89 

from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, before he took any refreshment, 
he went to all the churches in the city to return thanks. Du Cange 
tells us that palmers were received on their return home with eccle- 
siastical processions ; but perhaps this was only in the case of men of 
some social importance. We have the details of one such occasion on 
record:* William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, assumed the cross, and 
after procuring suitable necessaries, took with him a retinue, and among 
them a chaplain to perform divine offices, for all of whom he kept a daily 

From " Le Pelerinage de la Vie Humaine " (French National Library). 

table. Before he set out he went to Gilbert, Bishop of London, for his 
license and benediction. He travelled by land as far as Rome, over 
France, Burgundy, and the Alps, leaving his horse at Mantua. He visited 
every holy place in Jerusalem and on his route ; made his prayers and 
offerings at each ; and so returned. Upon his arrival, he made presents 
of silk cloths to all the churches of his see, for copes or coverings of the 
altars. The monks of Walden met him in procession, in albes and copes, 
singing, " Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord ; " and the 

• Dugdale's " Monasticoc ." 

i go The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

earl coming to the high-altar, and there prostrating himself, the prior gave 
him the benediction. After this he rose, and kneeling, offered some pre- 
cious relics in an ivory box, which he had obtained in Jerusalem and 
elsewhere. This offering concluded, he rose, and stood before the altar; 
the prior and convent singing the Te Deum. Leaving the church he went 
to the chapter, to give and receive the kiss of peace from the prior and 
monks. A sumptuous entertainment followed for himself and his suite; 
and the succeeding days were passed in visits to relatives and friends, who 
congratulated him on his safe return. 

Du Cange says that palmers used to present their scrips and staves to 
their parish churches. And Coryatt * says that he saw cockle and mussel 
shells, and beads, and other religious relics, hung up over the door of a 
little chapel in a nunnery, which, says Fosbroke, were offerings made by 
pilgrims on their return from Compostella. 

The illuminated MS., Julius E. VI., illustrates, among other events of 
the life of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, various scenes of his 
pilgrimage to Rome and to Jerusalem. In an illumination (subsequently 
engraved in the chapter on Merchants) he is seen embarking in his own 
ship ; in another, he is presented to the Pope and cardinals at Rome + 
(subsequently engraved in the chapter on Secular Clergy); in another, 
he is worshipping at the Holy Sepulchre, where he hung up his shield 
in remembrance of his accomplished vow. 

The additional MS. 24,189, is part of St. John Mandeville's history of 
his travels, and its illuminations in some respects illustrate the voyage of 
a pilgrim of rank. 

Hans Burgmaier's " Images de Saints," &c, — from which we take the 
figure on the next page, — affords us a very excellent contemporary illus- 
tration of a pilgrim of high rank, with his attendants, all in pilgrim costume, 
and wearing the signs which show us that their pilgrimage has been 
successfully accomplished. 

* " Crudities," p. 18. 

t In Lydgate's " Life of St. Edmund " (Harl. 2,278) is a picture of King Alkmund 
ou his pilgrimage, at Rome, receiving the Pope's blessing, in which the treatment of the 
subject is very like that of the illumination in the text. 

The Pilgrim' *s Tomb. 


Those who had taken any of the greater pilgrimages would probably be 
regarded with a certain respect and reverence by their untravelled neigh- 
bours, and the agnomen of Palmer or Pilgrim, which would naturally be 
added to their Christian name — as William the Palmer, or John the Pilgrim 
— is doubtless the origin of two sufficiently common surnames. The 
tokens of pilgrimage sometimes even accompanied a man to his grave, and 
were sculptured on his monument Shells have not unfrequently been 

Pilgrim on Horseback. 

found in stone coffins, and are taken with great probability to be relics of 
the pilgrimage, which the deceased had once taken to Compostella, and 
which as sacred things, and having a certain religious virtue, were strewed 
over him as he was carried upon his bier in the funeral procession, and 
were placed with him in his grave. For example, when the grave of Bishop 
Mayhew, who died in 15x6, in Hereford Cathedral, was opened some years 
ago, there was found lying by his side, a common, rough, hazel wand, 
between four and five feet long, and about as thick as a man's finger ; and 
rith it a mussel and a few oyster-shells. Four other instances of such 

192 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages, 

hazel rods, without accompanying shells, buried with ecclesiastics, had 
previously been observed in the same cathedral.* The tomb of Abbot 
Cheltenham, at Tewkesbury, has the spandrels ornamented with shields 
charged with scallop shells, and the pilgrim staff and scrip are sculptured 
on the bosses of the groining of the canopy over the tomb. There is a 
gravestone at Haltwhistle, Northumberland, to which we have already more 
than once had occasion to refer,f on which is the usual device of a cross 
sculptured in relief, and on one side of the shaft of the cross are laid a 
sword and shield, charged with the arms of Blenkinsop, a fess between 
three garbs, indicating, we presume, that the deceased was a knight ; on 
the other side of the shaft of the cross are laid a palmer's staff, and a scrip, 
bearing also garbs, and indicating that the knight had been a pilgrim. 

In the church of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, there is, under a 
monumental arch in the wall of the north aisle, a recumbent effigy, a good 
deal defaced, of a man in pilgrim weeds. A tunic or gown reaches half- 
way down between the knee and ankle, and he has short pointed laced 
boots ; a hat with its margin decorated with scallop-shells lies under his 
head, his scrip tasselled and charged with scallop-shells is at his right side, 
and his rosary on his left, and his staff is laid diagonally across the body. 
The costly style of the monument, J the lion at his feet, and above all a 
collar of SS. round his neck, prove that the person thus commemorated 
was a person of distinction. 

In the churchyard of Llanfihangel-Aber-Cowen, Carmarthenshire, there 
are three graves, § which are assigned by the local tradition to three holy 

* The shells indicate a pilgrimage accomplished, but the rod may not have been 
intended to represent the pilgrim's bourdon. In the Harl. MS. 5,102, fol. 68, a MS. of 
the beginning of the thirteenth century, is a bishop holding a slender rod (not a pastoral 
staff), and at fol. 17 of the same MS. one is putting a similar rod into a bishop's coffin. 
The priors of small cathedrals bore a staff without crook, and had the privilege of being 
arrayed in pontificals for mass ; choir-rulers often bore staves. Dr. Rock, in the " Church 
of our Fathers," vol. hi., pt. 11, p. 224, gives a cut from a late Flemish Book of Hours, 
in which a priest, sitting at confession, bears a long rod. 

t It is engraved in Mr. Boutell's "Christian Monuments in England and Wales," p. 79. 

J Engraved in Nichols's "Leicestershire," vol. hi., pi. ii., p. 623. 

§ Engraved in the " Manual of Sepulchral Slabs and Crosses," by the Rev. E. L. 
Cults, pi. lxxiii. 

The Pilgrim's Tomb. 193 

palmers, " who wandered thither in poverty and distress, and being about 
to perish for want, slew each other : the last survivor buried his fellows 
and then himself in one of the graves which they had prepared, and pulling 
the stone over him, left it, as it is, ill adjusted." Two of the headstones 
have very rude demi-effigies, with a cross patee sculptured upon them. In 
one of the graves were found, some years ago, the bones of a female or 
youth, and half-a-dozen scallop-shells. There are also, among the curious 
symbols which appear on mediaeval coffin-stones, some which are verj 
likely intended for pilgrim staves. There is one at Woodhorn, Northum- 
berland, engraved in the " Manual of Sepulchral Slabs and Crosses," and 
another at Alnwick-le-Street, Yorkshire, is engraved in Gough's " Sepulchral 
Monuments," vol. i. It may be that these were men who had made a 
vow of perpetual pilgrimage, or who died in the midst of an unfinished 
pilgrimage, and therefore the pilgrim insignia were placed upon their 
monuments. If every man and woman who had made a pilgrimage had 
had its badges carved upon their tombs, we should surely have found 
many other tombs thus designated ; but, indeed, we have the tombs ot 
men who we know had accomplished pilgrimages to Jerusalem, but have 
no pilgrim insignia upon their tombs. 

Other illustrations of pilgrim costume may be found scattered throughout 
the illuminated MSS. References to some of the best of them are here 
added. In the Royal, 1,696, at f. 163, is a good drawing of St James as 
a pilgrim. In the Add. MS. 17,687, at f. 33, another of the pilgrim saints 
with scrip and staff; in the MS. Nero E 2, a half-length of the saint with 
a scallop-shell in his hat; in the MS. 18,143, of early sixteenth-century 
date, at f. 57 v., another. In Lydgate's " History of St. Edmund," already 
quoted for its pictures of shrines, there are also several good pictures of 
pilgrims. On f. 79 is a group of three pilgrims, who appear again in dif- 
ferent parts of the history, twice on page 80, and again at 84 and 85. At 
f. 81 the three pilgrims have built themselves a hermitage and chapel, sur- 
rounded by a fence of wicker-work. In Henry VII.'s chapel, Westminster, 
the figure of a pilgrim is frequently introduced in the ornamental sculp- 
ture of the side chapels and on the reredos, in allusion, no doubt, to the 
pilgrims who figure in the legendary history of St. Edmund the Confessor. 


194 The Pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

Having followed the pilgrim to his very tomb, there we pause. We 
cannot but satirise the troops of mere religious holiday-makers, who rode a 
pleasant summer's holiday through the green roads of merry England, 
feasting at the inns, singing amorous songs, and telling loose stories by 
the way ; going through a round of sight-seeing at the end of it ; and 
drinking foul water in which a dead man's blood had been mingled, or a 
dead man's bones had been washed. But let us be allowed to indulge the 
hope that every act of real, honest, self-denial — however mistaken — in 
remorse for sin, for the sake of purity, or for the honour of religion, did 
benefit the honest, though mistaken devotee. Is our religion so perfect 
and so pure, and is our practice so exactly accordant with it, that we can 
afford to sit in severe judgment upon honest, self-denying error? 





HE present organisation of the Church of England dates from 
the Council of Hertford, a.d. 673. Before that time the 
Saxon people were the object of missionary operations, carried 
on by two independent bodies, the Italian mission, having its centre 
at Canterbury, and the Celtic mission, in Iona. The bishops who had 
been sent from one or other of these sources into the several kingdoms 
of the Heptarchy, gathered a body of clergy about them, with whom 
they lived in common at the cathedral town ; thence they made 
missionary progresses through the towns and villages of the Saxon 
"bush;" returning always to the cathedral as their head-quarters and 
home. The national churches which sprang from these two sources were 
kept asunder by some differences of discipline and ceremonial rather than 
of doctrine. These differences were reconciled at the Council of Hertford, 
and all the churches there and then recognised Theodore, Archbishop of 
Canterbury, as the Metropolitan of all England. 

To the same archbishop we owe the establishment of the parochial 
organisation of the Church of England, which has ever since continued. 

196 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages, 

He pointed out to the people the advantage of having the constant minis- 
trations of a regular pastor, instead of the occasional visits of a missionary. 
He encouraged the thanes to provide a dwelling-house and a parcel of 
glebe for the clergyman's residence ; and permitted that the tithe of each 
manor — which the thane had hitherto paid into the common church-fund 
of the bishop — should henceforth be paid to the resident pastor, for his 
own maintenance and the support of his local hospitalities and charities \ 
and lastly, he permitted each thane to select the pastor for his own manor 
out of the general body of the clergy. Thus naturally grew the whole 
establishment of the Church of England; thus each kingdom of the 
Heptarchy became, in ecclesiastical language, a diocese, each manor a 
parish; and thus the patronage of the benefices of England became 
vested in the lords of the manors. 

At the same time that a rector was thus gradually settled in every 
parish, with rights and duties which soon became defined, and sanctioned 
by law, the bishop continued to keep a body of clergy about him in the 
cathedral, whose position also gradually became defined and settled. The 
number of clergy in the cathedral establishment became settled, and 
they acquired the name of canons; they were organised into a colle- 
giate body, with a dean and other officers. The estates of the bishops 
were distinguished from those of the body of canons. Each canon had 
his own house within the walled space about the cathedral, which was 
called the Close, and a share in the common property of the Chapter. 
Besides the canons, thus limited in number, there gradually arose a 
necessity for other clergymen to fulfil the various duties of a cathedral. 
These received stipends, and lodged where they could in the town ; but in 
time these additional clergy also were organised into a corporation, and 
generally some benefactor was found to build them a quadrangle of little 
houses within, or hard by, the Close, and often to endow their corporation 
with lands and livings. The Vicars' Close at Wells is a very good and 
well-known example of these supplementary establishments. It is a long 
quadrangle, with little houses on each side, a hall at one end, and a library 
at the other, and a direct communication with the cathedral. There also 
arose in process of time many collegiate churches in the kingdom, which, 

Cathedral Clergy, 


resembled the cathedral establishments of secular canons in every respect, 
except that no bishop had his see within their church. Some of the 
churches of these colleges of secular canons were architecturally equal to 
the cathedrals. Southwell Minster, for example, is not even equalled by 
many of the cathedral churches. It would occupy too much space to enter 
into any details of the constitution of these establishments. 

These canons may usually be recognised in pictures by their cos- 

tume. The most characteristic features were the square cap and the furred 
amys. The amys was a fur cape worn over the shoulders, with a hood 
attached, and usually has a fringe of the tails of the fur or sometimes of 
little bells, and two long ends in front. In the accompanying very beau- 
tiful woodcut we have a semi-choir of secular canons, seated in their stalls 
in the cathedral, with the bishop in his stall at the west end. They are 
habited in surplices, ornamented with needlework, beneath which may be 

198 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

seen their robes, some pink, some blue in colour.* One in the sub- 
sellse seems to have his furred amys thrown over the arm of his stall ; his 
right-hand neighbour seems to have his hanging over his shoulder. He, 
and one in the upper stalls, have round skull caps (birettas); others 
have the hood on their heads, where it assumes a horned shape, which 
may be seen in other pictures of canons. The woodcut is part of a full- 
page illumination of the interior of a church, in the Book of Hours of 
Richard II., in the British Museum (Domit. xvii.). 

These powerful ecclesiastical establishments continued to flourish 
throughout the Middle Ages ; their histories must be sought in Dugdale's 
" Monasticon," or Britton's or Murray's " Cathedrals," or the monographs 
of the several cathedrals. In the registers of the cathedrals there exists 
also a vast amount of unpublished matter, which would supply all the 
little life-like details that historians usually pass by, but which we need 
to enable us really to enter into the cathedral life of the Middle Ages. 
The world is indebted to Mr. Raine for the publication of some such 
details from the registry of York, in the very interesting " York Fabric 
Rolls," which he edited for the Surtees Society. 

To return to the Saxon rectors. By the end of the Saxon period of our 
history we find the whole kingdom divided into parishes, and in each a 
rector resident. Probably the rectors were often related to the lords of the 
manors, as is natural in the case of family livings ; they were not a learned 
clergy ; speaking generally they were a married clergy ; in other respects, 
too, they did not affect the ascetic spirit of monasticism ; they ate and 
drank like other people ; farmed their own glebes ; spent a good deal of 
their leisure in hawking and hunting, like their brothers, and cousins, and 
neighbours ; but all their interests were in the people and things of their 
own parishes ; they seem to have performed their clerical functions fairly 
well ; and they were bountiful to the poor ; in short, they seem to have 
had the virtues and failings of the country rectors of a hundred years ago. 

After the Norman conquest several causes concurred to deprive a large 

* It will be shown hereafter that secular priests ordinarily wore dresses of these gay 
.•olours, all the ecclesiastical canons to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Impropriation. 199 

majority of the parishes of the advantage of the cure of well-born, well- 
endowed rectors, and to supply their places by ill-paid vicars and parochial 
chaplains. First among these causes we may mention the evil of impropria- 
tions, from which so many of our parishes are yet suffering, and of which this 
is a brief explanation. Just before the Norman conquest there was a great 
revival of the monastic principle ; several new orders of monks had been 
founded ; and the religious feeling of the age set in strongly in favour of these 
religious communities which then, at least, were learned, industrious, and self- 
denying. The Normans founded many new monasteries in England, and not 
only endowed them with lands and manors, but introduced the custom of 
endowing them also with the rectories of which they were patrons. They 
gave the benefice to the convent, and the convent, as a religious corporation, 
took upon itself the office of rector, and provided a vicar to perform the 
spiritual duties of the cure. The apportionment of the temporalities of 
the benefice usually was, that the convent took the great tithe, which 
formed the far larger portion of the benefice, and gave the vicar the small 
tithe, and (if it were not too large) the rectory-house and glebe for his 
maintenance. The position of a poor vicar, it is easy to see, was very 
different in dignity and emolument, and in prestige in the eyes of his 
parishioners, and the means of conferring temporal benefits upon them, 
from that of the old rectors his predecessors in the cure. By the time 
of the Reformation, about half of the livings of England and Wales had 
thus become impropriate to monasteries, cathedral chapters, corporations, 
guilds, &c. ; and since the great tithe was not restored to the parishes at 
the dissolution of the religious houses, but granted to laymen together 
with the abbey-lands, about half the parishes of England are still suffering 
from this perversion of the ancient Saxon endowments. 

Another cause of the change in the condition of the parochial clergy 
was the custom of papal provisors. The popes, in the thirteenth century, 
gradually assumed a power of nominating to vacant benefices. Gregory IX. 
and Innocent TV., who ruled the church in the middle of this century, are 
said to have presented Italian priests to all the best benefices in England. 
Many of these foreigners, having preferment in their own country, never 
came near their cures, but employed parish chaplains to fulfil their duties, 

200 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages* 

and sometimes neglected to do even that. Edward III. resisted this inva- 
sion of the rights of the patrons of English livings, and in the time of 
Richard II. it was finally stopped by the famous statute of Praemunire 
(a.d. 1392). 

The custom of allowing one man to hold several livings was another 
means of depriving parishes of a resident rector, and handing them over to 
the care of a curate. The extent to which this system of Pluralities 
was carried in the Middle Ages seems almost incredible ; we even read 
of one man having from four to five hundred benefices. 

Another less known abuse was the custom of presenting to benefices 
men who had taken only the minor clerical orders. A glance at the lists 
of incumbents of benefices in any good county history will reveal the fact 
that rectors of parishes were often only deacons, sub-deacons, or acolytes.* 
It is clear that in many of these cases — probably in the majority of them — 
the men had taken a minor order only to qualify themselves for holding 
the temporalities of a benefice, and never proceeded to the priesthood at 
all ; they employed a chaplain to perform their spiritual functions for them, 
while they enjoyed the fruits of the benefice as if it were a lay fee, the 
minor order which they had taken imposing no restraint upon their living 
an entirely secular life.t It is clear that a considerable number of priests 

* Here is a good example from Baker's " Northamptonshire : " — " Broughton 
Rectory: Richard Meyreul, sub-deacon, presented in 1243. Peter de Vieleston, deacon, 
presented in 1346-7. Though still only a deacon, he had previously been rector of 
Cottisbrook from 1342 to 1345." 

Matthew Paris tells us that, in 1252, the beneficed clergy in the diocese of Lincoln 
were urgently persuaded and admonished by their bishop to allow themselves to be 
promoted to the grade of priesthood, but many of them refused. 

The thirteenth Constitution of the second General Council of Lyons, held in 1274, 
ordered curates to reside and to take priests' orders within a year of their promotion ; the 
lists above quoted show how inoperative was this attempt to remedy the practice against 
which it was directed. 

t A writer in the CJwistian Remembrancer for July, 1856, says : — "During the four- 
teenth century it would seem that half the number of rectories throughout England were 
held by acolytes unable to administer the sacrament of the altar, to hear confessions, or 
even to baptise. Presented to a benefice often before of age to be ordained, the rector 

preferred to marry and to remain a layman, or at best a clerk in minor orders In 

short, during the time to which we refer, rectories were looked upon and treated as lay 

Parish Chaplains. 201 

were required to perform the duties of the numerous parishes whose 
rectors were absent or in minor orders, who seem to have been called 
parochial chaplains. The emolument and social position of these paro- 
chial chaplains were not such as to make the office a desirable one ; and it 
would seem that the candidates for it were, to a great extent, drawn from 
the lower classes of the people. Chaucer tells us of his poor parson of 
a town, whose description we give below, that 

" With him there was a ploughman was his brother." 

In the Norwich corporation records of the time of Henry VIII. (1521 
a.d.), there is a copy of the examination of " Sir William Green," in whose 
sketch of his own life, though he was only a pretended priest, we have a 
curious history of the way in which many a poor man's son did really 
attain the priesthood. He was the son of a labouring man, learned gram- 
mar at the village grammar school for two years, and then went to day 
labour with his father. Afterwards removing to Boston, he lived with his 
aunt, partly labouring for his living, and going to school as he had oppor- 
tunity. Being evidently a clerkly lad, he was admitted to the minor 
orders, up to that of acolyte, at the hands of " Friar Graunt," who was a 
suffragan bishop in the diocese of Lincoln. After that he went to Cam 
bridge, where, as at Boston, he partly earned a livelihood by his labour, 
and partly availed himself of the opportunities of learning which the uni- 
versity offered, getting his meat and drink of alms. At length, having an 
opportunity of going to Rome, with two monks of Whitby Abbey (perhaps 
in the capacity of attendant, one Edward Prentis being of the company, 
who was, perhaps, his fellow-servant to the two monks), he there en- 
deavoured to obtain the order of the priesthood, which seems to have 
been conferred rather indiscriminately at Rome, and without a " title ; " 
but in this he was unsuccessful. After his return to England he laboured 
for his living, first with his brother in Essex, then at Cambridge, then at 
Boston, then in London. At last he went to Cambridge again, and, by the 
influence of Mr. Coney, obtained of the Vice-Chancellor a licence under 
seal to collect subscriptions for one year towards an exhibition to complete 

202 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

his education in the schools, as was often done by poor scholars.* Had 
he obtained money enough, completed his education, and obtained ordi- 
nation in due course, it would have completed the story in a regular 
way. But here he fell into bad hands, forged first a new poor scholar's 
licence, and then letters of orders, and then wandered about begging alms 
as an unfortunate, destitute priest ; he may furnish us with a type of the 
idle and vagabond priests, of whom there were only too many in the 
country, and of whom Sir Thomas More says, " the order is rebuked by 
the priests' begging and lewd living, which either is fain to walk at rovers 
and live upon trentals (thirty days' masses), or worse, or to serve in a 
secular man's house."! The original of this sketch is given at length in 
the note below. \ 

* See Chaucer's poor scholar, hereinafter quoted, who — 

" busily gan for the soulis pray 
Of them that gave him wherewith to scholaie." 

t " Dialogue on Heresies," book iii. c. 12. 

X " Norwich Corporation Records." Sessions Book of 12th Henry VII. Memorand. — 
That on Thursday, Holyrood Eve, in the xijth of King Henry the VIIJ., Sir William 
Grene, being accused of being a spy, was examined before the mayor's deputy and 
others, and gave the following account of himself : — " The same Sir William saieth that 
he was borne in Boston, in the countie of Lincoln, and about xviij yeres nowe paste or 
there about, he dwellyd with Stephen 'at Grene, his father at Wantlet, in the saide 
countie of Lincolne, and lerned gramer by the space of ij yeres ; after that by v or vj 
yeres used labour with his said father, sometyme in husbandrie and other wiles with the 
longe sawe ; and after that dwelling in Boston at one Genet a Grene, his aunte, used 
labour and other wiles goyng to scole by the space of ij years, and in that time receyved 
benet and accolet [the first tonsure and acolytate] in the freres Austens in Boston of one 
frere Graunt, then beying suffragan of the diocese of Lincoln ["Frere Graunt" was 
William Grant, titular Bishop of Pavada, in the province of Constantinople. He was Vicar 
of Redgewell, in Essex, and Suffragan of Ely, from 1516 to 1525. — Stubbs's Registrum 
Sacrum Anglicanum] ; after that dwelling within Boston wt. one Mr. Williamson, 
merchaunt, half a yere, and after that dwellinge in Cambridge by the space of half a yere, 
used labour by the day beryng of ale and pekynge of saffron, and sometyme going to the 
colleges, and gate his mete and drynke of almes ; and aft that the same Sir William, with 
ij monks of Whitby Abbey, and one Edward Prentis, went to Rome, to thentent for to 
have ben made p'st, to which order he could not be admitted ; and after abiding in 
Larkington, in the countie of Essex, used labour for his levyng wt. one Thorn. Grene his 
broder ; and after that the same Sr. Will, cam to Cambridge, and ther teried iiij or v 
wekes, and gate his levynge of almes ; and after, dwelling in Boston, agen laboured 
with dyvs persones by vij or viij wekes ; and after that dwelling in London, in Holborn, 

Parish Chaplains, 203 

This custom of poor scholars gaining their livelihood and the means of 
prosecuting their studies by seeking alms was very common. It should be 
noticed here that the Church in the Middle Ages was the chief ladder by 
which men of the lower ranks were able to climb up — and vast numbers 
did climb up — into the upper ranks of society, to be clergymen, and monks, 
and abbots, and bishops, statesmen, and popes. Piers Ploughman, in a 
very illiberal strain, makes it a subject of reproach — 

" Now might each sowter • his son setten to schole, 
And each beggar's brat in the book leame, 
And worth to a writer and with a lorde dwelle, 
Or falsly to a frere the fiend for to serven. 
So of that beggar's brat a Bishop that worthen, 
Among the peers of the land prese to sythen ; 
And lordes sons lowly to the lorde's loute, 
Knyghtes crooketh hem to, and coucheth ful lowe ; 
And his sire a sowter y-soiled with grees,t 
His teeth with toyling of lether battered as a sawe." 

with one Rickerby, a fustian dyer, about iij wekes, and after that the same William 
resorted to Cambridge, and ther met agen wt. the said Edward Prentise ; and at instance 
and labour of one Mr. Cony, of Cambridge, the same Will. Grene and Edward Prentise 
obteyned a licence for one year of Mr. Cappes, than being deputee to the Chancellor of 
the said univ'sitie, under his seal of office, wherby the same Will, and Edward gathered 
toguether in Cambridgeshire releaff toward their exhibicon to scole by the space of viij 
weks, and after that the said Edward departed from the company of the same William. 
And shortly after that, one Robert Draper, scoler, borne at Feltham, in the countee of 
Lincoln, accompanyed wt. the same Willm., and they forged and made a newe licence, 
and putte therin ther bothe names, and the same sealed wt. the seale of the other licence 
granted to the same Will, and Edward as is aforeseid, by which forged licence the same 
Will, and Robt. gathered in Cambridgeshire and other shires. At Coventre the same 
Will, and Robt. caused one Knolles, a tynker, dwelling in Coventre, to make for them a 
case of tynne mete for a seale of a title which the same Robt. Draper holdde of Makby 
Abbey. And after that the same Willm. and Robt. cam to Cambridge, and ther met 
wt. one Sr. John Manthorp, the which hadde ben lately before at Rome, and ther was 
made a prest ; and the same Robert Draper copied out the bulle of orders of deken, sub- 
deken, and p'stehod for the same Willm. ; and the same Willm. toke waxe, and leyed 
and p'st it to the prynte of the seale of the title that the said Robert had a Makby afore- 
seid, and led the same forged seale in the casse of tynne aforeseid, and with labels fastned 
ye same to his said forged bull. And sithen the same Willm. hath gathered in dyvers 
shires, as Northampton, Cambridge, Suffolk, and Norfolk, alway shewyng and feyning 
hymself that he hadde ben at Rome, and ther was made preste, by means whereof he hath 
receyved almes of dyvers and many persones." — Norfolk Archaeology, vol. iv. p. 342. 
* Cobbler. f Grease. 

204 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

The Church was the great protector and friend of the lower classes of 
society, and that on the highest grounds. In this very matter of educating 
the children of the poor, and opening to such as were specially gifted 
a suitable career, we find so late as the date of the Reformation, Cranmer 
maintaining the rights of the poor on high grounds. For among the 
Royal Commissioners for reorganising the cathedral establishment at Can- 
terbury " were more than one or two who would have none admitted to 
the Grammar School but sons or younger brothers of gentlemen. As for 
others, husbandmen's children, they were more used, they said, for the 
plough and to be artificers than to occupy the place of the learned sort. 
Whereto the Archbishop said that poor men's children are many times 
endowed with more singular gifts of nature, which are also the gifts of God, 
as eloquence, memory, apt pronunciation, sobriety, and such like ; and 
also commonly more apt to study than is the gentleman's son, more deli- 
cately educated. Hereunto it was, on the other part, replied that it 
was for the ploughman's son to go to plough, and the artificer's son to 
apply to the trade of his parent's vocation ; and the gentleman's children 
are used to have the knowledge of government and rule of the common- 
wealth. ' I grant,' replied the Archbishop, ' much of your meaning 
herein as needful in a commonwealth; but yet utterly to exclude the 
ploughman's son and the poor man's son from the benefit of learning, as 
though they were unworthy to have the gifts of the Holy Ghost bestowed 
upon them as well as upon others, was much as to say as that Almighty 
God should not be at liberty to bestow his great gifts of grace upon any 
person, but as we and other men shall appoint them to be employed 
according to our fancy, and not according to his most goodly will and 
pleasure, who giveth his gifts of learning and other perfections in all 
sciences unto all kinds and states of people indifferently." 

Besides the rectors and vicars of parishes, there was another class of 
beneficed clergymen in the middle ages, who gradually became very 
numerous, viz., the chantry priests. By the end of the ante-Reformation 
period there was hardly a church in the kingdom which had not one or 
more chantries founded in it, and endowed for the perpetual maintenance 

Chantry Priests. 205 

of a chantry priest, to say mass daily for ever for the soul's health of the 
founder and his family. The churches of the large and wealthy towns had 
sometimes ten or twelve such chantries. The chantry chapel was some- 
times built on to the parish church, and opening into it ; sometimes it was 
only a corner of the church screened off from the rest of the area by open- 
work wooden screens. The chantry priest had sometimes a chantry-house 
to live in, and estates for his maintenance, sometimes he had only an annual 
income, charged on the estate of the founder. The chantries were sup- 
pressed, and their endowments confiscated, in the reign of Edward VI., but 
the chantry chapels still remain as part of our parish churches, and where 
the parclose screens have long since been removed, the traces of the chantry 
altar are still very frequently apparent to the eye of the ecclesiastical anti- 
quary. Sometimes more than one priest was provided for by wealthy people. 
Richard III. commenced the foundation of a chantry of one hundred chap- 
lains, to sing masses in the cathedral church of York ; the chantry-house was 
begun, and six altars were erected in York Minster, when the king's death 
at Bosworth Field interrupted the completion of the magnificent design.* 

We have next to add to our enumeration of the various classes of the 
mediaeval clergy another class of chaplains, whose duties were very nearly 
dn to those of the chantry priests. These were the guild priests. It was 
le custom throughout the middle ages for men and women to associate 
lemselves in religious guilds, partly for mutual assistance in temporal 
utters, but chiefly for mutual prayers for their welfare while living, and 
>r their soul's health when dead. These guilds usually maintained a chap- 
in, whose duty it was to celebrate mass daily for the brethren and sisters 
)f the guild. These guild priests must have been numerous, eg., we learn 
rom Blomfield's " Norfolk," that there were at the Reformation ten guilds 
in Windham Church, Norfolk, seven at Hingham, seven at Swaifham, 
seventeen at Yarmouth, &c. Moreover, a guild, like a chantry, had some- 
times more than one guild priest. Leland tells us the guild of St. John's, 
in St Botolph's Church, Boston, had ten priests, " living hi a fayre house 
at the west end of the parish church yard." In St. Mary's Church, Lich- 
field, was a guild which had five priests.t 

* York Fabric Rolls, p. 87, note. f " Church of our Fathers," ii. 441. 

206 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

The rules of some of these religious guilds may be found in Stow's 
" Survey of London," e.g., of St. Barbara's guild in the church of St. Kathe- 
rine, next the Tower of London (in book ii. p. 7 of Hughes's edition.) 

We find bequests to the guild priests, in common with other chaplains, 
in the ancient wills, eg., in 15 41, Henry Waller, of Richmond, leaves " to 
every gyld prest of thys town, vi d . y t ar at my beryall."* 

Dr. Rock says,f "Besides this, every guild priest had to go on Sundays 
and holy days, and help the priests in the parochial services of the church 
in which his guild kept their altar. All chantry priests were bidden by our 
old English canons to do the same." The brotherhood priest of the guild 
of the Holy Trinity, at St. Botolph's, in London, was required to be " meke 
and obedient unto the qu'er in alle divine servyces duryng hys time, as 
custome is in the citye amonge alle other p'sts." Sometimes a chantry 
priest was specially required by his foundation deed to help in the cure 
of souls in the parish, as in the case of a chantry founded in St. Mary's, 
Maldon, and Little Bentley, Essex; J sometimes the chantry chapel was 
built in a hamlet at a distance from the parish church, and was intended to 
serve as a chapel of ease, and the priest as an assistant curate, as at Foul- 
ness Island and Billericay, both in Essex. 

But it is very doubtful whether the chantry priests generally considered 
themselves bound to take any share in the parochial work of the parish. § 
In the absence of any cure of souls, the office of chantry or guild priest 
was easy, and often lucrative ; and we find it a common subject of 
complaint, from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, that it was 
preferred to a cure of souls; and that even parochial incumbents were 
apt to leave their parishes in the hands of a parochial chaplain, and seek for 
themselves a chantry or guild, or one of the temporary engagements to 
celebrate annals, of which there were so many provided by the wills of 
which we shall shortly have to speak. Thus Chaucer reckons, among the 
virtues of his poore parson, that — 

* Richmond Wills. 

t " Church of our Fathers," ii. 408, note. 

X Newcourt's " Repertorium." 

I Johnson's " Canons," ii. 421. Ang. Cath. Lib. Edition. 

Chantry Priests. 207 

** He set not his benefice to hire, 
And let his shepe accomber in the mire, 
And runne to London to Saint Poule's, 
To seken him a chauntrie for soules, 
Or with a brotherhood to be with-held, 
But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold.'* 

So also Piers Ploughman — 

" Parsons and parisshe preistes, pleyned hem to the bisshope, 
That hire parishes weren povere sith the pestilence tyme, 
To have a licence and leve at London to dwelle 
And syngen ther for symonie, for silver is swete." 

Besides the chantry priests and guild priests, there was a great crowd of 
priests who gained a livelihood by taking temporary engagements to say 
masses for the souls of the departed. Nearly every will of the period we 
are considering provides for the saying of masses for the soul of the 
testator. Sometimes it is only by ordering a fee to be paid to every priest 
who shall be present at the funeral, sometimes by ordering the executors 
to have a number of masses, varying from ten to ten thousand, said as 
speedily as may be ; sometimes by directing that a priest shall be engaged 
to say mass for a certain period, varying from thirty days to forty or 
fifty years. These casual masses formed an irregular provision for a large 
number of priests, many of whom performed no other clerical function, 
and too often led a dissolute as well as an idle life. Archbishop Islip 
says in his " Constitutions :"* — " We are certainly informed, by com- 
mon fame and experience, that modern priests, through covetousness 
and love of ease, not content with reasonable salaries, demand excessive 
pay for their labours, and receive it; and do so despise labour and 
study pleasure, that they wholly refuse, as parish priests, to serve in 
churches or chapels, or to attend the cure of souls, though fitting 
salaries are offered them, that they may live in a leisurely manner, by cele- 
brating annals for the quick and dead ; and so parish churches and chapels 
remain unofficiated, destitute of parochial chaplains, and even proper 
curates, to the grievous danger of souls." Chaucer has introduced one 
of this class into the Canon's Yeoman's tale : — 

• Johnson's " Canons," ii. 421. 

208 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

" In London was a priest, an annueller,* 
That therein dwelled hadde many a year, 
Which was so pleasant and so serviceable 
Unto the wife there as he was at table 
That she would suffer him no thing to pay 
For board ne clothing, went he never so gay, 
And spending silver had he right ynoit." t 

Another numerous class of the clergy were the domestic chaplains. 
Every nobleman and gentleman had a private chapel in his own house,, 
and an ecclesiastical establishment attached, proportionate to his own 
rank and wealth. In royal houses and those of the great nobles, this 
private establishment was not unfrequently a collegiate establishment, with 
a dean and canons, clerks, and singing men and boys, who had their 
church and quadrangle within the precincts of the castle, and were main- 
tained by ample endowments. The establishment of the royal chapel of 
St. George, in Windsor Castle, is, perhaps, the only remaining example. 
The household book of the Earl of Northumberland gives us very full 
details of his chapel establishment, and of their duties, and of the emolu- 
ments which they received in money and kind. They consisted of a dean, 
who was to be a D.D. or LL.D. or B.D., and ten other priests, and eleven 
gentlemen and six children, who composed the choir. J But country gentle- 

* One who sang annual or yearly masses for the dead, 
t Enough. 

% Chapel of Earl of Northumberland, from the Household Book of Henry Algernon, 

fifth Earl of Northumberland, born 1477, and died 1527. ("Antiq. Repertory," iv. 242.); 

First, a preist, a doctour of divinity, a doctor of law, or a bachelor of divinitie, to be 

dean of my lord's chapell. 
It. A preist for to be surveyour of my lorde's landes. 
It. A preist for to be secretary to my lorde. 
It. A preist for to be amner to my lorde. 
//. A preist for to be sub-dean for ordering and keaping the queir in my lorde's chappell 

It A preist for a riding chaplein for my lorde. 

//. A preist for a chaplein for my lorde's eldest son, to waite uppon him daily. 
It. A preist for my lorde's dark of the closet. 
It. A preist for a maister of gramer in my lorde's hous. 
It. A preist for reading the (iospell in the chapel daily. 
It. A preist for singing of our Ladies' mass in the chapell daily. 
The number of these persons as chapleins and preists in houshould are xi. [The 

Domestic Chaplai?is. 209 

men of wealth often maintained a considerable chapel establishment. 

The gentlemen and children of my lorde's chappell which be not appointed to attend at 
no time, but only in exercising of Godde's service in the chapell daily at matteins, Lady- 
mass, hyhe-mass, evensong, and compeynge : — 
First, a bass. 
//. A second bass. 

Third bass. 

A maister of the childer, or counter-tenor. 

Second and third counter-tenor. 

A standing tenour. 

A second, third, and fourth standing tenour. 
The number of theis persons, as gentlemen of my lorde's chapell, xL 

Children of my lorde's chappell : — 
Three trebles and three second trebles. 
In all six. 

A table of what the Earl and Lady were accustomed to offer at mass on all holydayi 
"if he keep chappell," of offering and annual lights paid for at Holy Blood of 
Haillis (Hales, in Gloucestershire), our Lady of Walsingham, St. Margaret in Lincoln- 
shire, our Lady in the Whitefriars, Doncaster, of my lord's foundation : — 
Presents at Xmas to Bame, Bishop of Beverley and York, when he comes, as he 

is accustomed, yearly. 
Rewards to the children of his chapell when they do sing the responde called Exaudivi 

at the mattynstime for xi. in vespers upon Allhallow Day, 6s. Sd. 
On St. Nicholas Eve, 6j. Sd. 
To them of his lordshipe's chappell if they doe play the play of the Nativitie upon 

Xmas Day in the momynge in my lorde's chapell before his lordship, xxj. 
For singing "Gloria in Excelsis " at the martens time upon Xmas Day in the mg. 

To the Abbot of Miserewle (Misrule) on Xmas. 
To the yeoman or groom of the vestry for bringing him the hallowed taper on Candle- 
mas Day. 
To his lordship's chaplains and other servts. that play the Play before his lordship 

on Shrofetewsday at night, xxj. 
That play the Play of Resurrection upon Estur Daye in the mg. in my lorde's 

chapell before his lordship. 
To the yeoman or groom of the vestry on Allhallows Day for gyngynge for all Cris- 

tynne soles the saide nyhte to it be past mydnyght, y. qd. 

The Earl and Lady were brother and sister of St. Christopher Gilde of Yorke, and pd. 

6s. Sd. each yearly, and when the Master of the Gild brought my lord and my 

lady for their lyverays a yard of narrow violette cloth and a yard of narrow rayed 

cloth, 13J. $d. (i.e., a yard of each to each). 
And to Procter of St. Robert's of Knasbrughe, when my lord and lady were brother 

and sister, 6s. Sd. each. 

At pp. 272-278, is an elaborate programme of the ordering of my lord's chapel for 


210 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

Henry Machyn, in his diary,* tells us, in noticing the death of Sir Thomas 
Jarmyn, of Rushbrooke Hall, Suffolk, in 1552, that "he was the best 
housekeeper in the county of Suffolk, and kept a goodly chapel of sing- 
ing men." Knights and gentlemen of less means, or less love of goodly 
singing men, were content with a single priest as chaplain.! Even wealthy 
yeomen and tradesmen had their domestic chaplain. Sir Thomas More 
says,} there was " such a rabel [of priests], that every mean man must 
have a priest in his house to wait upon his wife, which no man almost 
lacketh now." The chapels of the great lords were often sumptuous 
buildings, erected within the precincts, of which St. George's, Windsor, 
and the chapel within the Tower of London may supply examples. Smaller 
chapels erected within the house were still handsome and ecclesiastically- 
designed buildings, of which examples may be found in nearly every old 
castle and manor house which still exists ; e.g., the chapel of Colchester 
Castle of the twelfth century, of Ormsbro Castle of late twelfth century, 
of Beverstone Castle of the fourteenth century, engraved in Parker's 
"Domestic Architecture," III. p. 177 ; that at Igtham Castle of the 
fifteenth century, engraved in the same work, III. p. 173 ; that at Haddon 

the various services, from which it appears that there were organs, and several of the sing- 
ing men played them in turn. 

At p. 292 is an order about the washing of the linen for the chapel for a year. 
Surplices washed sixteen times a year against the great feasts — eighteen surplices for 
men, and six for children — and seven albs to be washed sixteen times a year, and " five 
aulter-cloths for covering of the alters " to be washed sixteen times a year. 

Page 285 ordered that the vestry stuff shall have at every removal (from house to 
house) one cart for the carrying the nine antiphoners, the four grailles, the hangings of the 
three altars in the chapel, the surplices, the altar-cloths in my lord's closet and my ladie's, 
and the sort (suit) of vestments and single vestments and copes " accopeed " daily, and all 
other my lord's chapell stuff to be sent afore my lord's chariot before his lordship remove. 

[Cardinal Wolsey, after the Earl's death, intimated his wish to have the books of 
the Earl's chapel, which a note speaks of as fine service books. — P. 314.] 

* Edited by Mr. Gough Nichols for the Camden Society. 

t Richard Burr6, a wealthy yeoman and " ffarmer of the parsonage of Sowntyng, called 
the Temple, which I holde of the howse of St. Jonys," in 19 Henry VIII. wills that Sir 
Robert Bechton, " my chaplen, syng ffor my soule by the span of ix. yers ;" and further 
requires an obit for his soul for eleven years in Sompting Church. — (" Notes on Wills," 
by M. A. Lower, " Sussex Archaeological Collections," iii. p. 112.) 

J •' Dialogue of Heresies," iii. c. 12. 

Domestic Chaplains, 2 1 1 

Hall of the fifteenth century. In great houses, besides the general 
chapel, there was often a small oratory besides for the private use of the 
lord of the castle, in later times called a closet ; sometimes another oratory 
for the lady, as in the case of the Earl of Northumberland.* In some 
of these domestic chapels we find a curious internal arrangement ; the 
western part of the apartment is divided into two stories by a wooden 
floor. This is the case also with the chapel of the preceptory of Chobham, 
Northumberland, of the Coyston Almshouses at Leicester (Parker's " Dom. 
Arch "). It is the case in one of the chapels in Tewkesbury Abbey Church, 
and in the case of a priory church in Norway. In some cases it was pro- 
bably to accommodate the tenants of different stories of the house. The 
frequency with which in later times the lord of the house had a private 
gallery in the chapel (a similar arrangement occasionally occurs in parish 
churches) leads us to conjecture that in these cases of two floors the upper 
loor was for the members of the family, and the lower for the servants of 

le house. These chapels were thoroughly furnished with vessels, books, 
robes, and every usual ornament, and every object and appliance neces- 
sary for the performance of the offices of the church, with a splendour 
aroportioned to the means of the master of the house. From the 

[ousehold Book of the Earl of Northumberland, we gather that 
the chapel had three altars, and that my lord and my lady had each a 
closet, /'.<?., an oratory, in which there were other altars. The chapel was 
furnished with hangings, and had a pair of organs. There were four an- 
tiphoners and four grails — service books — which were so famous for their 
beauty, that, at the earl's death, Wolsey intimated his wish to have them. 
We find mention, too, of the suits of vestments and single vestments, and 
copes and surplices, and altar-cloths for the five altars. All these things 
were under the care of the yeoman of the vestry, and were carried about 
with the earl at his removals from one to another of his houses. Minute 
catalogues and descriptions of the furniture of these domestic chapels may 
also be found in the inventories attached to ancient wills.! 

* See note on previous page, " the altar-cloths in my lord's closet and my ladie's." 
f Of the inventories to be found in wills, we will give only two, of the chapels of 

212 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

We shall give hereafter a picture of one of these domestic chaplains, 
viz., of Sir Roger, chaplain of the chapel of the Earl of Warwick at 
Flamstead. There is a picture of another chaplain of the Earl of 
Warwick in the MS. Life of R. Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (Julius 
E. IV.), where the earl and his chaplain are represented sitting together at 

Besides the clergy who were occupied in these various kinds of spiritual 
work, there were also a great number of priests engaged in secular occupa- 
tions. Bishops were statesmen, generals, and ambassadors, employing 
suffragan bishops* in the work of their dioceses. Priests were engaged in 
many ways in the king's service, and in that of noblemen and others. 
Piers Ploughman says : — 

" Somme serven the kyng, and his silver tellen, 
In cheker and in chauncelrie, chalangen his dettes, 
Of wardes and of wardemotes, weyves and theyves. 
And some serven as servantz, lordes and ladies, 
And in stede of stywardes, sitten and demen." 

The domestic chaplains were usually employed more or less in secular 
duties. Thus such services are regularly allotted to the eleven priests in 
the chapel of the Earls of Northumberland ; one was surveyor of my lord's 
lands, and another my lord's secretary. Mr. Christopher Pickering, in his will 

country gentlemen. Rudulph Adirlay, Esq. of Colwick (" Testamenta Eboracensia," 
p. 30), Nottinghamshire, A.D. 1429, leaves to Alan de Cranwill, his chaplain, a little 
missal and another book, and to Elizabeth his wife " the chalice, vestment, with two 
candelabra of laton, and the little missal, with all other ornaments belonging to my 
chapel." In the inventories of the will of John Smith, Esq., of Blackmore, Essex, A.D. 
1543, occur : " In the chappell chamber — Item a long setle yoyned. In the chappell — 
Item one aulter of yoyner's worke. Item a table with two leaves of the passion gilt. 
Item a long setle of waynscott. Item a bell hanging over the chapel. Chappell stuff : 
Copes and vestments thre. Aulter fronts foure. Corporall case one ; and dyvers peces of 
silk necessary for cusshyons v. Thomas Smith (to have) as moche as wyll serve his chap- 
pell, the resydue to be solde by myn executours." The plate and candlesticks of the 
chapel are not specially mentioned ; they are probably included among the plate which 
is otherwise disposed of, and " the xiiiij latyn candlestyckes of dyvers sorts," elsewhere 
mentioned. — Essex Archceological Society's Transactions, vol. iii. p. 60. 

* See the Rev. W. Stubbs's learned and laborious "Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum," 
which gives lists of the suffragan (as well as the diocesan) bishops of the Church of 

Domestic Chaplains. 


(a.d. 1542), leaves to " my sarvands John Dobson and Frances, xx». a-pece, 
besydes ther wages ; allso I gyve unto Sir James Edwarde my sarvand," 
&c. ; and one of the witnesses to the will is " Sir James Edwarde, preste," 

/ho was probably Mr. Pickering's chaplain.* Sir Thomas More says, 
svery man has a priest to wait upon his wife ; and in truth the chaplain 
seems to have often performed the duties of a superior gentleman usher. 
Nicholas Blackburn, a wealthy citizen of York, and twice Lord Mayor, 
leaves (a.d. 143 1-2) a special bequest to his wife " to find her a gentle- 
woman, and a priest, and a servant, "t Lady Elizabeth Hay leaves 

^quests in this order, to her son, her chaplain, her servant, and her 

laid. J 

• " Richmondshire Wills," p. 34. 

♦Ibid., p. 3* 

t "Test Ebor.," 2*0. 



|T is necessary, to a complete sketch of the subject of the 
secular clergy, to notice, however briefly, the minor orders, 
which have so long been abolished in the reformed Church 
of England, that we have forgotten their very names. There were 
seven orders through which the clerk had to go, from the lowest to 
the highest step in the hierarchy. The Pontifical oi Archbishop Ecgbert 
gives us the form of ordination for each order ; and the ordination 
ceremonies and exhortations show us very fully what were the duties 
of the various orders, and by what costume and symbols of office we 
may recognise them. But these particulars are brought together more 
concisely in a document of much later date, viz., in the account of 
the degradation from the priesthood of Sir William Sawtre, the first of 
the Lollards who died for heresy, in the year 1400 a.d., and a transcript 
of it will suffice for our present purpose. The archbishop, assisted 
by several bishops, sitting on the bishop's throne in St. Paul's — Sii 
William Sawtre standing before him in priestly robes — proceeded to 
the degradation as follows : — " In the name, &c, we, Thomas, &c, 
degrade and depose you from the order of priests, and in token 
thereof we take from you the paten and the chalice, and deprive 
you of all power of celebrating mass ; we also strip you of the 
chasuble, take from you the sacerdotal vestment, and deprive you 
altogether of the dignity of the priesthood. Thee also, the said William, 
dressed in the habit of a deacon, and having the book of the gospels 
in thy hands, do we degrade and depose from the order of deacons, as 

Minor Orders. 215 

a condemned and relapsed heretic; and in token hereof we take from 
thee the book of the gospels, and the stole, and deprive thee of the 
power of reading the gospels. We degrade thee from the order ol 
subdeacons, and in token thereof take from thee the albe and maniple. 
We degrade thee from the order of an acolyte, taking from thee in 
token thereof this small pitcher and taper staff. We degrade thee from 
the order of an exorcist, and take from thee in token thereof the book of 
exorcisms. We degrade thee from the order of reader, and take from thee 
in token thereof the book of divine lessons. Thee also, the said William 
Sawtre, vested in a surplice as an ostiary,* do we degrade from that order, 
taking from thee the surplice and the keys of the church. Furthermore, as a 
sign of actual degradation, we have caused the crown and clerical tonsure 
to be shaved off in our presence, and to be entirely obliterated like a lay- 
man ; we have also caused a woollen cap to be put upon thy head, as a 
secular layman." 

The word clericus — clerk — was one of very wide and rather vague signi- 
ficance, and included not only the various grades of clerks in orders, ot 
whom we have spoken, but also all men who followed any kind of occupa- 
tion which involved the use of reading and writing ; finally, every man who 
could read might claim the " benefit of clergy," i.e., the legal immunities 
of a clerk. The word is still used with the same comprehensiveness and 
vagueness of meaning. Clerk in Orders is still the legal description of a 
clergyman ; and men whose occupation is to use the pen are still called 
clerks, as lawyers' clerks, merchants' clerks, &c. Clerks were often em- 
ployed in secular occupations ; for example, Alan Middleton, who was 

• In a pontifical of the middle of the fifteenth century, in the British Museum, 
(Egerton, 1067) at f. 19, is an illumination at the beginning of the service for ordering 
an ostiary, in which the act is represented. The bishop, habited in a green chasuble 
and white mitre, is delivering the keys to the clerk, who is habited in a surplice over a 
black cassock, and is tonsured. At f. 35 of the same MS. is a pretty little picture, show- 
ing the ordination of priests ; and at f. 44 v., of the consecration of bishops. Other 
episcopal acts are illustrated in the same MS. : confirmation at f. 12 ; dedication of a 
church, f. 100 ; consecration of an altar, f. 120 ; benediction of a cemetery, f. 149 v. ; 
consecration of chalice and paten, f. 163 ; reconciling penitents, f. 182 and f. 186 v. ; the 
"feet- washing," f. 186. 

2 1 6 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

employed by the convent of St. Alban's to collect their rents, and who is 
represented on page 63 ante in the picture from their " Catalogus Benefac- 
torum " (Nero D. vii., British Museum), is tonsured, and therefore was a 
clerk. Chaucer gives us a charming picture of a poor clerk of Oxford, 
who seems to have been a candidate for holy orders, and is therefore 
germane to our subject : — 

" A clerke there was of Oxenforde also, 
That unto logike hadde long ygo, 
As lene was his horse as is a rake, 
And he was not right fat, I undertake, 
But looked holwe and thereto soberly. 
Ful thredbare was his overest courtepy,* 
For he hadde getten him yet no benefice, 
Ne was nought worldly to have an office, f 
For him was lever han at his beddes hed 
A twenty bokes, clothed in black or red, 
Of Aristotle and his philosophic, 
Than robes riche, or fidel or sautrie. 
But all be that he was a philosophre, 
Yet hadde he but little gold in cofre, 
But all that he might of his frendes hente,J 
On bokes and on lerning he it spente ; 
And besely gan for the soules praye 
Of hem that yave him wherewith to scholaie,} 
Of studie toke he moste cure and hede. 
Not a word spake he more than was nede, 
And that was said in forme and reverence, 
And short and quike, and ful of high sentence. 
Souning in moral vertue was his speche, 
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche." 

In the Miller's Tale Chaucer gives us a sketch of another poor scholar of 
Oxford. He lodged with a carpenter, and 

" A chambre had he in that hostelerie, 
Alone withouten any compaynie, 
Ful fetisly 'ydight with herb6s sweet." 

His books great and small, and his astrological apparatus 

* Outer short cloak. 

t Was not sufficiently a man of the world to be fit for a secular occupation. 
J Obtain. § To pursue his studies. 

Parish Clerks. 


" On shelves couched at his bedd6's head, 
His press ycovered with a falding red, 
And all about there lay a gay sautrie 
On which he made on nightes melodie 
So swetely that all the chamber rung, 
And Angelas ad Virginem he sung." 

We give a typical illustration of the class from one of the characters in 

a Dance of Death at the end of a Book of the Hours of the Blessed Virgin 

Mary, in the British Museum. It is described 

beneath as " Un Clerc." * 

One of this class was employed by every 

parish to perform certain duties on behalf of the 

parishioners, and to assist the clergyman in 

certain functions of his office. The Parish 

Clerk has survived the revolution which swept 

away the other minor ecclesiastical officials of 

the middle ages, and still has his legal status in 

the parish church. Probably many of our 

readers will be surprised to hear that the office 

is an ancient one, and will take interest in a 

few original extracts which throw light on the 


In the wills he frequently has a legacy left, together with the clergy — 

e.g., " Item I leave to my parish vicar ilj^ iiij* 1 Item I leave to my parish 
lerk xij d Item I leave to every chaplain present at my obsequies and 
iass iiij d -" (Will of John Brompton, of Beverley, merchant, 1443.)! 

Elizabeth del Hay, in 1434, leaves to " every priest ministering at my 

obsequies vi 4 ; to every parish clerk iiij**- ; to minor clerks to each one 

ij 4 -" % Hawisia Aske, of York, in 1 450-1 a.d., leaves to the " parish chap- 
lain of St. Michael iij s - iiij d - ; to every chaplain of the said church xx ± ; to 

A CUrk. 

* For another good illustration of a clerk of time of Richard II. see the illumination of 
that king's coronation in the frontispiece of the MS. Royal, 14, £ iv., where he seems to 
be in attendance on one of the bishops. He is habited in blue cassock, red liripipe, 
blark urse, with penner and inkhorn. 

t " Test. Ebor.," voL ii. p. 98. ; Ibid., vol. ii. p. 38. 

218 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages, 

the parish clerk of the said church xx" 1 ; to the sub-clerk of the same 
church x d "* John Clerk, formerly chaplain of the chapel of the Blessed 
Mary Magdalen, near York, in 1449, leaves to "the parish clerk of St. 
Olave, in the suburbs of York, xij d -; to each of the two chaplains of the 
said church being present at my funeral and mass iiij d j to the parish clerk 
of the said church iiij 4 ; to the sub-clerk of the said church xf- ; among the 
little boys of the said church wearing surplices iiij d -, to be distributed 
equally." f These extracts serve to indicate the clerical staff of the several 
churches mentioned. 

From other sources we learn what his duties were. In 1540 the parish 
of Milend, near Colchester, was presented to the archdeacon by the recton 
because in the said church there was " nother clerke nor sexten to go 
withe him in tyme of visitacion [of the sick], nor to helpe him say masses, 
nor to rynge to servyce."^ And in 1543 the Vicar of Kelveden, Essex, 
complains that there is not "caryed holy water, § norryngyng to evensonge 
accordyng as the clerke shuld do, with other dutees to him belongyng." || 
In the York presentations we find a similar complaint at Wyghton in 1472 ; 
they present that the parish clerk does not perform his services as he 
ought, because when he ought to go with the vicar to visit the sick, 
the clerk absents himself, and sends a boy with the vicar. ^[ The clerk 
might be a married man, for in 141 6 Thomas Curtas, parish clerk of 
the parish of St. Thomas the Martyr, is presented, because with his wife 
he has hindered, and still hinders, the parish clerk of St. Mary Bishophill, 
York [in which parish he seems to have lived] from entering his house 
on the Lord's days with holy water, as is the custom of the city. Also it 
is complained that the said Thomas and his wife refuse to come to hear 
divine service at their parish church, and withdraw their oblat ions. In the 
Royal MS., 10, E iv., is a series of illustrations of a mediaeval tale, which 

* " Test. Ebor.," vol. ii. p. 143. t Ibid., vol. ii. p. 149. 

% Archdeacon Hale's "Precedents in Criminal Causes," p. 113. 

§ From the duty of carrying holy water, mentioned here and in other extracts, the 
slerk derived the name of aqua bajulus, by which he is often called, e.g., in many of the 
places in Archdeacon Hale's " Precedents in Criminal Causes." 

|J Ibid., p. 122. U York Fabric Rolls, p. 257. ** Ibid., p. 248. 

Parish Clerks. 


turns on the adventures of a parish clerk, as he goes through the parish 
aspersing the people with holy water. Two of the pictures will suffice to 
show the costume and the holy water-pot and aspersoir, and to indicate 

The Parish Clerk sprinkling the Coot. 

how he went into all the rooms of the house — now into the kitchen sprink- 
ling the cook, now into the hall sprinkling the lord and lady who are at 
breakfast. In the woodcut on p. 24 r, will be seen how he precedes an 

The Parish Clerk sprinkling the Kr.ight and Lady. 

ecclesiastical procession, sprinkling the people on each side as he goes. 
The subsequent description (p. 221) of the parish clerk Absolon, by 
Chaucer, indicates that sometimes — perhaps on some special festivals — 
the clerk went about censing the people instead of sprinkling them. 

220 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

To continue the notes of a parish clerk's duties, gathered from the 
churchwardens' presentations: at Wyghton, in 15 10, they find "a faut 
with our parish clerk yt he hath not done his dewtee to ye kirk, yt 
is to say, ryngyng of ye mOrne bell and ye evyn bell ; and also 
another fawt [which may explain the former one], he fyndes yt pour 
mene pays hym not his wages."* At Cawood, in 15 10 a.d., we find 
it the duty of the parish clerk "to keepe ye clok and ryng corfer 
[curfew] at dew tymes appointed by ye parrish, and also to ryng ye 
day bell." t He had his desk in church near the clergyman, perhaps 
on the opposite side of the chancel, as we gather from a presentation 
from St. Maurice, York, in 141 6, that the desks in the choir on both 
sides, especially where the parish chaplain and parish clerk are accus- 
tomed to sit, need repair. J A story in Matthew Paris § tells us what his 
office was worth : " It happened that an agent of the pope met a petty 
clerk of a village carrying water in a little vessel, with a sprinkler and some 
bits of bread given him for having sprinkled some holy water, and to him 
the deceitful Roman thus addressed himself : ' How much does the profit 
yielded to you by this church amount to in a year ? ' To which the clerk, 
ignorant of the Roman's cunning, replied, ' To twenty shillings I think ; ' 
whereupon the agent demanded the per-centage the pope had just demanded 
on all ecclesiastical benefices. And to pay that small sum this poor man 
was compelled to hold schools for many days, and by selling his books in 
the precincts, to drag on a half-starved life." The parish clerks of London 
formed a guild, which used to exhibit miracle plays at its annual feast, on 
the green, in the parish of St. James, Clerkenwell. The parish clerks 
always took an important part in the conduct of the miracle plays ; and it 
was natural that when they united their forces in such an exhibition on 
behalf of their guild the result should be an exhibition of unusual excel- 
lence. Stow tells us that in 1391 the guild performed before the king and 
queen and whole court three days successively, and that in 1409 they pro- 
duced a play of the creation of the world, whose representation occupied 

• York Fabric Rolls, p. 265. f Ibid., p. 266. 

\ Ibid., p. 248. § Bohn's Edition, ii. 388. 

Parish Clerks. 221 

eight successive days. The Passion-play, still exhibited every ten years at 
Ober-Ammergau, has made all the world acquainted with the kind of 
exhibition in which our forefathers delighted. These miracle-plays still 
survive also in Spain, and probably in other Roman Catholic countries. 

Chaucer has not failed to give us, in his wonderful gallery of contem- 
porary characters (in the Miller's Tale), a portrait of the parish clerk : — 

" Now was ther of that churche a parish clerk, 
The which that was ycleped Absolon. 
Crulle was his here,* and as the gold it shon, 
And strouted as a fanne large and brode ; 
Ful streight and even lay his jolly shode. 
His rodef was red, his eyen grey as goos, 
With Poules windowes carven on his shoos, 
In hosen red he went ful fetisly, j 
Yclad he was ful smal and proprely, 
All in a kirtle of a light waget,§ 
Ful faire and thicke ben the pointes set. 
An' therupon he had a gay surplise, 
As white as is the blossome upon the rise.|| 
A mery child he was, so God me save, 
Wei coud he leten blod, and clippe, and shave, 
And make a chartre of lond and a quitance ; 
In twenty manere could he trip and dance, 
(After the scole of Oxenforde tho) 
And playen songes on a smal ri bible, U 
Therto he song, sometime a loud quinible,H 
And as wel could he play on a giteme. 
In all the toun n'as brewhouse ne taveme 
That he ne visited with his solas, 
Ther as that any galliard tapstere was. 
This Absolon, that joly was and gay, 
Goth with a censor on the holy day, 
Censing the wives of the parish faste,** 
And many a lovely loke he on hem caste. 

» • • * » 

Sometime to shew his lightnesse and maistrie, 
He plaieth Herode on a skaffold hie." 

* Hair. t Complexion. £ Neatly. 

§ Watchet, a kind of cloth. || Small twigs or trees. U Musical instruments. 

** As the parish clerk of St. Mary, York, used to go to the people's houses with holy 
water on Sundays. 



(E shall obtain further help to a comprehension of the character, 
and position, and popular estimation of the mediaeval seculars — 
the parish priests — if we compare them first with the regulars 
— the monks and friars — and then with their modern representatives the 
parochial clergy. One great point of difference between the regulars and 
the seculars was that the monks and friars affected asceticism, and the 
parish priests did not. The monks and friars had taken the three 
vows of absolute poverty, voluntary celibacy, and implicit obedience 
to the superior of the convent. The parish priests, on the contrary, 
had their benefices and their private property ; they long resisted the 
obligations of celibacy, which popes and councils tried to lay upon 
them; they were themselves spiritual rulers in their own parishes, sub- 
ject only to the constitutional rule of the bishop. The monks professed 
to shut themselves up from the world, and to mortify their bodily appetites 
in order the better, as they considered, to work out their own salvation. 
The friars professed to be the schools of the prophets, to have the spirit of 
Nazariteship, to be followers of Elijah and John Baptist, to wear sackcloth, 
and live hardly, and go about as preachers of repentance. The secular 
clergy had no desire and felt no need to shut themselves up from the 
world like monks ; they did not feel called upon, with the friars, to imitate 
John Baptist, " neither eating nor drinking," seeing that a greater than he 
came " eating and drinking " and living the common life of men. They 
rather looked upon Christian priests and clerks as occupying the place of 
the priests and Levites of the ancient church, set apart to minister in holy 

Regulars and Seculars. 223 

things like them, but not condemned to poverty or asceticism any more 
than they were. The difference told unfavourably for the parish clergy in 
the popular estimation ; for the unreasoning crowd is always impressed by 
the dramatic exhibition of austerity of life and the profession of extra- 
ordinary sanctity, and undervalues the virtue which is only seen in the 
godly regulation of a life of ordinary every-day occupations. The lord 
monks were the aristocratic order of the clergy. Their convents were 
wealthy and powerful, their minsters and houses were the glory of the 
land, their officials ranked with the nobles, and the greatness of the whole 
house reflected dignity upon each of its monks. 

The friars were the popular order of the clergy. The Four Orders were 
great organizations of itinerant preachers; powerful through their learning and 
eloquence, their organization, and the Papal support ; cultivating the favour 
of the people by which they lived by popular eloquence and demagogic arts. 

Between these two great classes stood the secular clergy, upon whom 
the practical pastoral work of the country fell. A numerous body, but 
disorganized ; diocesan bishops acting as statesmen, and devolving their 
ecclesiastical duties on suffragans ; rectors refusing to take priests' orders, 
and living like laymen ; the majority of the parishes practically served by 
parochial chaplains ; every gentleman having his own chaplain dependent 
on his own pleasure ; hundreds of priests engaged in secular occupations. 

Between the secular priests and the friars, as we have seen, pp. 46 etseq., 
there was a direct rivalry and a great deal of bitter feeling. The friars ac- 
cused the parish priests of neglect of duty and ignorance in spiritual things 
id worldliness of life, and came into their parishes whenever they pleased, 
^reaching and visiting from house to house, hearing confessions and pre- 
scribing penances, and carrying away the offerings of the people. The 
parish priests looked upon the friars as intruders in their parishes, and 
accused them of setting their people against them and undermining their 
spiritual influence ; of corrupting discipline, by receiving the confessions 
of those who were ashamed to confess to their pastor who knew them, and 
enjoining light penances in order to encourage people to come to them ; 
and lastly, of using all the arts of low popularity-seeking in order to extract 
gifts and offerings from their people. 

224 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

We have already given one contemporary illustration of this from 
Chaucer, at p. 46 ante. We add one or two extracts from Piers Plough- 
man's Vision. In one place of his elaborate allegory he introduces Wrath, 
saying : — 

" I am Wrath, quod he, I was sum tyme a frere, 
Anil the convent's gardyner for to graffimpes* 
On limitoures and listers lesyngs I imped 
Till they bere leaves of low speech lordes to please 
And sithen thier blossomed abrode in bower to hear shriftes. 
And now is fallen therof a fruite, that folk have well liever 
Shewen her shriftes to hem than shryve hem to ther parsones. 
And now, parsons have perceyved that freres part with hem, 
These possessionem preache and deprave freres, 
And freres find hem in default, as folk beareth witness." — v. 143. 

And again on the same grievance of the friars gaining the confidence 
of the people away from their parish priests — • 

"And well is this y-holde : in parisches of Engelonde, 
For persones and parish prestes : that shulde the peple shryve, 
Ben curatoures called : to know and to hele. 
Alle that ben her parishens : penaunce to enjoine, 
And shulden be ashamed in her shrifte : an shame maketh hem wende, 
And fleen to the freres : as fals folke to Westmynstere, 
That boi with and bereth it thider."f 

#hen we compare the mediaeval seculars with the modern clergy, we 
find that the modern clergy form a much more homogeneous body. In the 
mediaeval seculars the bishop was often one who had been a monk or friar ; 
the cathedral clergy in many dioceses were regulars. Then, besides the par- 
sons and parochial chaplains, who answer to our incumbents and curates, 
there were the chantry and gild priests, and priests who " lived at rovers 
on trentals;" the great number of domestic chaplains must have consider- 
ably affected the relations of the parochial clergy to the gentry. Of the 
inferior ecclesiastical people, deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes, readers, 
exorcists, and ostiaries it is probable that in an ordinary parish there 

* Grafted lies. 

t As debtors flee to sanctuary at Westminster, and live on what they have borrowed, 
and set their creditors at defiance. 

Mediaval and Modern Clergy. 225 

would be only a parish clerk and a boy-acolyte ; in larger churches an 
ostiary besides, answering to our verger, and in cathedrals a larger staff 
of minor officials ; but it is doubtful whether there was any real working 
staff of sub-deacons, readers, exorcists, any more than we in these days 
have a working order of deacons ; men passed through those orders on 
their way upwards to the priesthood, but made no stay in them. 

. But a still greater difference between the mediaeval secular clergy and 
the modern parochial clergy is in their relative position with respect to 
society generally. The homogeneous body of " the bishops and clergy " 
are the only representatives of a clergy in the eyes of modern English 
society; the relative position of the secular clergy in the eyes of the 
mediaeval world was less exclusive and far inferior. The seculars were 
only one order of the clergy, sharing the tide with monks and friars, and 
they were commonly held as inferior to the one in wealth and learning, 
and to the other in holiness and zeal. 

Another difference between the mediaeval seculars and the modern 
clergy is in the superior independence of the latter. The poor parochial 
chaplain was largely dependent for his means of living on the fees and 
offerings of his parishioners. The domestic chaplain was only an upper 
servant. Even the country incumbent, in those feudal days when the lord 
of the manor was a petty sovereign, was very much under the influence of 
the local magnate. 

In some primitive little villages, where the lord of the manor continues 
to be the sovereign of his village, it is still the fashion for the clergyman not 
to begin service till the squire comes. The Book of the Knight of La 
Tour Landry gives two stories which serve to show that the deference of 
the clergyman to the squire was sometimes carried to very excessive 
lengths in the old days of which we are writing. " I have herde of a knight 
and of a lady that in her youthe delited hem to rise late. And so they 
used longe, tille many tymes that thei lost her masse, and made other of 
her parisshe to lese it, for the knight was lorde and patron of the chirche, 
and therfor the priest durst not disobeye hym. And so it happed that 
on a Sunday the knight sent unto the chirche that thei shulde abide hym. 
And whane he come, it was passed none, wherfor thir might not that day 


226 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages, 

have no masse, for every man saide it was passed tyme of the day, and 
therfor thei durst not singe. And so that Sunday the knight, the lady, 
and alle the parisshe was without masse, of the whiche the pepelle were sori, 
but thir must needs suffre." And on a night there came a vision to the 
parson, and the same night the knight and lady dreamed a dream. And 
the parson came to the knighfs house, and he told him his vision, and 
the priest his, of which they greatly marvelled, for their dreams were like. 
" And the priest said unto the knight, ' There is hereby in a forest an holy 
ermyte that canne telle us what this avision menithe.' And than thei yede to 
hym, and tolde it hym fro point to point, and as it was. And the wise holi 
man, the which was of blessed lyff, expounded and declared her avision." 

The other story is of " a ladi that dwelled faste by the chirche, that 
toke every day so long time to make her redy that it made every Sunday 
the person of the chirche and the parisshenes to abide after her. And 
she happed to abide so longe on a Sunday that it was fer dayes, and 
every man said to other, ' This day we trow shall not this lady be kerned 
and arraied.'" 

The condition of the parochial clergy being such as we have sketched, 
it might seem as if the people stood but a poor chance of being Chris- 
tianly and virtuously brought up. But when we come to inquire into that 
part of the question the results are unexpectedly satisfactory. The priests 
in charge of parishes seem, on the whole, to have done their duty 
better than we should have anticipated ; and the people generally had 
a knowledge of the great truths of religion, greater probably than is 
now generally possessed — it was taught to them by the eye in sculp- 
tures, paintings, stained glass, miracle plays ; these religious truths were 
probably more constantly in their minds and on their lips than is the 
case now — they occur much more frequently in popular literature; and 
though the people were rude and coarse and violent and sensual enough, 
yet it is probable that religion was a greater power among them gene- 
rally than it is now; there was probably more crime, but less vice, 
above all, an elevated sanctity in individuals was probably more common 
m those times than in these. 

The Mediceval Pastor in his Parish. 227 

One interesting evidence of the actual mode of pastoral ministrations 
in those days is the handbooks, which were common enough, teach- 
ing the parish priest his duties. The Early English Text Society has 
lately done us a service by publishing one of these manuals of " Instruc- 
tions for Parish Priests," which will enable us to give some notes on the 
subject. " Great numbers,'' says the editor, " of independent works of 
this nature were produced in the Middle Ages. There is probably not a 
language or dialect in Europe that has not now, or had not once, several 
treatises of this nature among its early literature. The growth of languages, 
the Reformation, and the alteration in clerical education consequent on 
that great revolution, have caused a great part of them to perish or become 
forgotten. A relic of this sort fished up from the forgotten past is very 
useful to us as a help towards understanding the sort of life our fathers 
lived. To many it will seem strange that these directions, written without 
the least thought of hostile criticism, when there was no danger in plain 
speaking, and no inducements to hide or soften down, should be so free 
from superstition. We have scarcely any of the nonsense which some 
people still think made up the greater part of the religion of the Middle 
Ages, but instead thereof good sound morality, such as it would be pleasant 
to hear preached at the present day." 

The book in question is by John Myrk, a canon regular of St. Austin, of 
Lilleshall, in Shropshire ; the beautiful ruins of his monastery may still be 
seen in the grounds of the Duke of Sutherland's shooting-box at Lilleshall. 
He tells us that he translated it from a Latin book called " Pars Oculi." 
It is worthy of note that a former prior of Lilleshall, Johannes Miraus, 
had written a work on the same subject, called " Manuale Sacerdotis," 
to which John Myrk's bears much resemblance, both in subject and treat- 
ment. The editor's sketch of the argument of the "Instructions to 
Parish Priests " will help us to give a sufficient idea of its contents for 
our present purpose. 

The author begins by telling the parish priest what sort of man he 
himself should be. Not ignorant, because 

«« Whenne the blynde ledeth the blynde 
Into the dyche they fallen both." 

228 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

He must himself be an example to his people : — 
" What thee nedeth hem to teche 
And whyche thou muste thy self be. 
For lytel is worth thy prechynge 
If thou be of evyle lyvynge." 

He must be chaste, eschew lies and oaths, drunkenness, gluttony, pride, 
sloth, and envy. Must keep from taverns, trading, wrestling, and shooting, 
and the like manly sports ; from hunting, hawking, and dancing. Must 
not wear cutted clothes or pyked shoes, or dagger, but wear becoming 
clothes, and shave his crown and beard. Must be given to hospitality, both to 
poor and rich, read his psalter, and remember doomsday ; return good for 
evil, eschew jesting and ribaldry, despise the world, and follow after virtue. 
The priest must not be content with knowing his own duties. He 
must be prepared to teach those under his charge all that Christian men 
and women should do and believe. We are told that when any one has 
done a sin he must not continue long with it on his conscience, but go 
straight to the priest and confess it, lest he should forget before the great 
shriving time at Eastertide. Pregnant women, especially, are to go to 
their shrift, and receive the Holy Communion at once. Our instructor is 
very strict on the duties of midwives — women they were really in those 
days, and properly licensed to their office by the ecclesiastical authorities. 
They are on no account to permit children to die unbaptized. If there 
be no priest at hand, they are to administer that sacrament themselves if 
they see danger of death. They must be especially careful to use the 
right form of words, such as our Lord taught ; but it does not matter 
whether they say them in Latin or English, or whether the Latin be good 
or bad, so that the intention be to use the proper words. The water, and 
the vessel that contained it, are not to be again employed in domestic 
use, but to be burned or carried to the church and cast into the font. If 
no one else be at hand, the parents themselves may baptize their children. 
All infants are to be christened at Easter and Whitsuntide in the newly- 
blessed fonts, if there have not been necessity to administer the Sacrament 
before. Godparents are to be careful to teach their godchildren the Pater 
Noster, Ave Maria, and Credo; and are not to be sponsors to their god- 
children at their Confirmation, for they have already contracted a spiritua' 

The Mediceval Pastor in his Parish. 229 

relationship. Before weddings banns are to be asked on three holidays, 
and all persons who contract irregular marriages, and the priests, clerks, 
and others that help thereat, are cursed for the same. The real presence 
of the body and blood of our Saviour in the Sacrament of the Altar is to 
be fully held ; but the people are to bear in mind that the wine and water 
given them after they have received Communion is not a part of the 
Sacrament It is an important thing to behave reverently in church, for 
the church is God's house, not a place for idle prattle. When people go 
there they are not to jest, or loll against the pillars and walls, but kneel 
down on the floor and pray to their Lord for mercy and grace. When the 
Gospel is read they are to stand up, and sign themselves with the cross ; 
and when they hear the Sanctus bell ring, they are to kneel and worship 
their Maker in the Blessed Sacrament. All men are to show reverence 
when they see the priest carrying the Host to the sick. He is to teach 
them the " Our Father," and " Hail, Mary," and " I believe," of which 
metrical versions are given, with a short exposition of the Creed. 

The author gives some very interesting instructions about churchyards, 
which show that they were sometimes treated with shameful irreverence. 
It was not for want of good instructions that our ancestors, in the days of 
the Plantagenets, played at rustic games, and that the gentry held their 
manorial courts, over the sleeping-places of the dead. 

Of witchcraft we hear surprisingly little. Myrk's words are such that 
one might almost think he had some sceptical doubts on the subject. Not 
so with usury : the taking interest for money, or lending anything to get 
profit thereby, is, we are shown, " a synne full grevus." 

After these and several more general instructions of a similar character, 
the author gives a very good commentary on the Creed, the Sacra- 
ments, the Commandments, and the deadly sins. The little tract ends 
with a few words of instruction to priests as to the " manner of saying 
mass, and of giving Holy Communion to the sick." On several subjects 
the author gives very detailed instructions and advice as to the best way 
of dealing with people, and his counsels are so right and sensible, that 
they might well be read now, not out of mere curiosity, but for profit. 
Here is his conclusion, as a specimen of the English and versification : — 

230 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

" Hyt ys I-made hem* to schonne 
That have no bokes of heref owne, 
And other that beth of mene lore 
That wolde fayn conne J more, 
And those that here-in learnest most, 
Thonke yerne the Holy Gost, 
That geveth wyt to eche mon 
To do the gode that he con, 
And by hys travayle and hys dede 
Geveth hym heven to hys mede ; 
The mede and the joye of heven lyht 
God us graunte for hys myht. Amen." 

That these instructions were not thrown away upon the mediaeval parish 
priests we may infer from Chaucer's beautiful description of the poor par- 
son of a town, who was one of his immortal band of Canterbury Pilgrims, 
which we here give as a fitting conclusion of this first part of our subject : 

"A good man there was of religioun, 
That was a poure persone of a toun ; 
But riche he was of holy thought and werk. 
He was also a lerned man, a clerk, 
That Criste's gospel trewely wolde preche, 
His parishens devoutly wolde he teche. 
Benigne he was and wonder diligent, 
And in adversite ful patient ; 
And such he was yproved often sithes. 
Full loth were he to cursen for his tithes, 
But rather wolde he given out of doubte 
Unto his poure parishens about, 
Of his offering and eke of his substance. 
He could in litel thing have suffisance. 
Wide was his parish, and houses fer asunder, 
But he ne left nought for no rain ne thunder, 
In sikenesse and in mischief to visite 
The farthest in his parish much and lite,§ 
Upon his fete, and in his hand a staff. 
This noble ensample to his sheep he gaf |) 
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught. 
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught, 
And this figure he added yet thereto, 
That if gold ruste what should iren do ? 

* Them. t Their. J Know. 

J Great and little. || Gave. 

A Mediaeval Parish Priest. 231 

For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust, 
No wonder is a lewed man to rust ; 
Well ought a preest ensample for to give, 
By his clenenesse how his shepe shulde live. 
He sette not his benefice to hire, 
And lefte his sheep accumbered in the mire, 
And ran unto London, unto Seint Ponies, 
To seeken him a chanterie for souls, 
Or with a brotherhede to be withold, 
But dwelt at home and kepte" well his fold. 
He was a shepherd and no mercenare ; 
And though he holy were and vertuous, 
He was to sinful men not despitous, * 
Ne of his speche" dangerous ne digne,t 
But in his teaching discrete and benigne. 
To drawen folk to heaven with fairenesse, 
By good ensample was his businesse. 
But it were any persone obstinat, 
What so he were of highe or low estate, 
Him wolde he snibbenj sharply for the nones, 
A better preest I trow that nowhere none is. 
He waited after no pomp ne reverence, 
Ne maked him no spiced§ conscience, 
But Christes lore, and his apostles twelve, 
He taught, but first he followed it himselve." 

Thus, monk, and friar, and hermit, and recluse, and rector, and chantry 
priest, played their several parts in mediaeval society, until the Reforma- 
tion came and swept away the religious orders and their houses, the 
chantry priests and their superstitions, and the colleges of seculars, 
with all their good and evil, and left only the parish churches and the 
parish priests remaining, stripped of half their tithe, and insufficient in 
number, in learning, and in social status to fulfil the office of the ministry 
of God among the people. Since then, for three centuries the people 
have multiplied, and the insufficiency of the ministry has been propor- 
tionately aggravated. It has been left to our day to complete the work of 
the Reformation by multiplying bishops and priests, and creating an order 
of deacons, re-distributing the ancient revenues and supplying what more 
is needed, and by effecting a general reorganization of the ecclesiastical 
establishment to adapt it to the actual spiritual needs of the people. 

* Angry. f Difiicult nor proud. J Smite, rebuke. § Scrupulous. 



E proceed to give some notes on the costume of the secular clergy • 
first the official costume which they wore when performing the 
public functions of their order, and next the ordinary costume 
in which they walked about their parishes and took part in the daily affairs 
of the mediaeval society of which they formed so large and important a 
part. The first branch of this subject is one of considerable magnitude ; 
it can hardly be altogether omitted in such a series of papers as this, 
but our limited space requires that we should deal with it as briefly as 
may be. 

Representations of the pope occur not infrequently in ancient paintings. 
His costume is that of an archbishop, only that instead of the usual mitre 
he wears a conical tiara. In later times a cross with three crossbars 
has been used by artists as a symbol of the pope, with two crossbars 
of a patriarch, and with one crossbar of an archbishop ; but Dr. Rock 
assures us that the pope never had a pastoral staff of this shape, but of one 
crossbar only ; that patriarchs of the Eastern Church used the cross of two 
bars, but never those of the Western Church ; and that the example of 
Thomas-a-Becket with a cross of two bars, in Queen Mary's Psalter 
(Royal, 2 B. vii.) is a unique example (and possibly an error of the 
artist's). A representation of Pope Leo III. from a contemporary picture 
is engraved in the " Annales Archaeologique," vol. viil p. 257 ; another 
very complete and clear representation of the pontifical costume of the 
time of Innocent III. is engraved by Dr. Rock (" Church of our Fathers," 
p. 467) from a fresco painting at Subiaco, near Rome. Another represents 

Costume of Pope and Cardinals. 


tion, of late thirteenth-century date, is given in the famous MS. called the 
" Psalter of Queen Mary," in the British Museum (Royal, 2 B. vii.) ; there 
the pope is in nothing more than ordinary episcopal costume — alb, tunic, 
chasuble, without the pall — and holds his cross-staff of only one bar in 
his right hand, and his canonical tiara has one crown round the base. 
Beside him stands a bishop in the same costume, except that he wears 

Pope, Cardinal, and Bishop. 

the mitre and holds a crook. A good fourteenth-century representation of 
a pope and cardinals is in the MS. August. V. f. 459. We give a woodcut 
of the fifteenth century, from a MS. life of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of 
Warwick, in the British Museum (Julius E. iv. f. 207) ; the subject is the 
presentation of the pilgrim earl to the pope, and it enables us to bring 
into one view the costumes of pope, cardinal, and bishop. A later picture 

234 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

of considerable artistic merit may be found in Hans Burgmair's " Der 
Weise Konig," where the pope, officiating at a royal marriage, is habited in 
a chasuble, and has the three crowns on his tiara. 

The cardinalate is not an ecclesiastical " order." Originally the name 
was applied to the priests of the chief churches of Rome, who formed 
the chapter of the Bishop of Rome. In later times they were the 
princes of the papal sovereignty, and the dignity was conferred not 
only upon the highest order of the hierarchy, but upon priests, deacons,* 
and even upon men who had only taken minor orders to qualify them- 
selves for holding office in the papal kingdom. The red hat, which became 
their distinctive symbol, is said to have been given them first by Inno- 
cent VI. at the Council of Lyons in 1245 ; and De Curbio says they first 
wore it in 1246, at the interview between the pope and Louis IX. of 
France. A representation of it may be seen in the MS. Royal, 16 G. vi., 
which is engraved in the " Pictorial History of England," vol. i. 869. 
Another very clear and good representation of the costume of a cardinal 
is in the plate in Hans Burgmair's " Der Weise Konig," already men- 
tioned ; a group of them is on the right side of the drawing, each with a 
fur-lined hood on his head, and his hat over the hood. It is not the hat 
which is peculiar to cardinals, but the colour of it, and the number of its 
tassels. Other ecclesiastics wore the hat of the same shape, but only a 
cardinal wears it of scarlet. Moreover, a priest wore only one tassel to 
each string, a bishop three, a cardinal seven. It was not the hat only 
which was scarlet. Wolsey, we read, was in the habit of dressing entirely 
in scarlet for his ordinary costume. In the Decretals of Pope Gregory, Royal, 
10 E. iv. f. 3 v., are representations of cardinals in red gown and hood 
and hat. On the following page they are represented, in pontificalibus. 

The archbishop wore the habit of a bishop, his differences being in the 
crosier and pall.f His crozier had a cross head instead of a curved head 

• Cardinal Otho, the Papal legate in England in the time of Henry III., was a deacon 
(Matthew Paris, Sub. Ann. 1237) ; Cardinal Pandulph, in King John's time, was a 
sub-deacon (R. "Wendover, Sub. Ann. 12 12). 

t There is a very fine drawing of an archbishop in pontificalibus of the latter part of 
the thirteenth century in the MS. Royal, 2 A. f. 219 v. 

Costume of Bishops. 235 

like the bishop's. Over the chasuble he wore the pall, which was a flat 
circular band, or collar, placed loosely round the shoulders, with long ends 
hanging down behind and before, made of lambs' wool, and marked with 
a number of crosses. Dr. Rock has engraved* two remarkably interesting 
early representations of archbishops of Ravenna, in which a very early form 
of the pontifical garments is given, viz., the sandals, alb, stole, tunic, cha- 
suble, pall, and tonsure. They are not represented with either mitre or 
staff. Other representations of archbishops may be found of the eleventh 
century in the Bayeux tapestry, and of the thirteenth in the Royal MS., 
2 B. vii. In the Froissart MS., Harl. 4,380, at f. 170, is a fifteenth-century 
representation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in ordinary dress — a 
lavender-coloured gown and red liripipe. 

The bishop wore the same habit as the priest, with the addition of 
sandals, gloves, a ring, the pastoral staff with a curved head, and the mitre. 
The chasuble was only worn when celebrating the Holy Communion ; on 
any other ceremonial occasion the cope was worn, e.g. y when in choir, as in 
the woodcut on p. 197 : or when preaching, as in a picture in the Harl. MS. 
131 9, engraved in the " Pictorial History of England," vol. i. 806 ; or when 
attending parliament. In illuminated MSS. bishops are very commonly 
represented dressed in alb and cope only, and this seems to have been 
their most usual habit. If the bishop were a monk or friar he wore the 
cope over the robe proper to his order. We might multiply indefinitely 
references to representations of bishops and other ecclesiastics in the illu- 
minated MS. We will content ourselves with one reference to a beauti- 
fully drawn figure in the psalter of the close of the 14th century (Harl. 
2,897, f- 38°)* In the early fourteenth-century MS. (Royal, 14 E. 
iii. at ff. 16 and 25), we find two representations of a bishop in what we 
may suppose was his ordinary unofficial costume ; he wears a blue-grey 
robe and hood with empty falling sleeves, through which appear the blue 
sleeves of his under robe ; it is the ordinary civil and clerical costume of 
the period, but he is marked out as a bishop by a white mitre. In the 
Pontifical of the middle of the fifteenth century, already referred to (Eger- 

• " Church of our Fathers," i. 319. 

236 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

ton, 1067) at f. 186 in the representation of the ceremony of the feet-washing, 
the bishop in a long black sleeveless robe* over a white alb, and a biretta. 

The earliest form of the mitre was that of a simple cap, like a skull-cap, 
of which there is a representation, giving in many respects a clear and 
elaborate picture of the episcopal robes, in a woodcut of St. Dunstan in 
the MS. Cotton, Claudius A. hit In this early shape it has already the 
infulse — two narrow bands hanging down behind. In the twelfth century 
it is in the form of a large cap, with a depression in the middle, which 
produces two blunt horns at the sides. There is a good representation 
of this in the MS. Cotton, Nero C. iv. f. 34, which has been engraved by 
Strutt, Shaw, and Dr. Rock 

In the Harl. MS. 5,102, f. 17, is a picture of the entombment of an arch- 
bishop, in which is well shown the transition shape of the mitre from the 
twelfth century, already described, to the cleft and pointed shape which 
was used in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The depression is 
here deepened into a partial cleft, and the mitre is put on so that the horns 
come before and behind, instead of at the sides, but the horns are still 
blunt and rounded. The archbishop's gloves in this picture are white, like 
the mitre, and in shape are like mittens, i.e., not divided into fingers. 

The shape in the thirteenth and fourteenth century presented a stiff low 
triangle in front and behind, with a gap between them. It is well shown 
in a MS. of the close of the twelfth century, Harl. 2,800, f. 6, and, in a 
shape a little further developed, in the pictures in the Royal MS., 2 B. vii., 
already noticed. In the fifteenth century the mitre began to be made 
taller, and with curved sides, as seen in the beautiful woodcut of a bishop 
and his canons in choir given in our last chapter, p. 197. The latest example 
in the English Church is in the brass of Archbishop Harsnett, in Chig- 
well Church, in which also occur the latest examples of the alb, stole, 
dalmatic, and cope. 

The pastoral staff also varied in shape at different times. The earliest 

* In a Spansh Book of Hours (Add. 18 19 — 3), at f. 86 v., is a representation of an 
ecclesiastic in a similar robe of dark purple with a hood, he wears a cardinal's hat and 
holds a papal tiara in his hand. 

t Engraved by Dr. Rock, ii. 97. 

The Pastoral Staff. 237 

examples of it are in the representations of St. Mark and St. Luke,* in the 
" Gospels of MacDurnan," in the Lambeth Library, a work of the middle 
of the ninth century. St. Luke's staff is short, St. Mark's longer than him- 
self ; in both cases the staff terminates with a plain, slightly reflexed curve 
of about three-fourths of a circle. Some actual examples of the meta! 
heads of these Celtic pastoral staves remain ; one is engraved in the 
" Archseologia Scotica," vol. ii., another is in the British Museum ; that of 
the abbots of Clonmacnoise, and that of the ancient bishops of Waterford, 
are in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. They were all brought 
together in 1863 in the Loan Exhibition at South Kensington. One of 
the earliest English representations of the staff is in the picture of the con- 
secration of a church, in a MS. of the ninth century, in the Rouen Library, 
engraved in the " Archaeologia," vol xxv. p. 17, in the " Pictorial History 
of England," and by Dr. Rock, ii. p. 24. Here the staff is about the 
length of an ordinary walking-stick, and is terminated by a round knob. 

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, is represented on his great seal with a short 
staff, with a tau-cross or crutch head. An actually existing staff of this 
shape, which belonged to Gerard, Bishop of Limoges, who died in 1022, 
is engraved in the " Annales Archseologique," vol. x. p. 176. The staves 
represented in illuminations of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries have 
usually a plain spiral curve of rather more than a circle ;t in later times 
they were ornamented with foliage, and sometimes with statuettes, and 
were enamelled and jewelled. Numerous representations and actual 
examples exist; some may be seen in the South Kensington Museum. 
From early in the fourteenth century downward, a napkin of linen or silk 
is often found attached by one corner to the head of the staff, whose origin 
and meaning seem to be undetermined. 

The official costume of the remaining orders, together with the symbols 
significant of their several offices, are well brought out in the degradation 
of W. Sawtre, already given at p. 214. 

Some of the vestments there mentioned may need a few words of explana- 

* Engraved in the Archaeological Journal, vii. 17 and 19. 

t A plain straight staff is sometimes seen in illuminations being put into a bishop's 
grave ; such staves have been actually found in the coffins of bishops. 

238 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

tion. The alb was a kind of long coat with close fitting sleeves made of 
white* linen, and usually, at least during the celebration of divine service, 
ornamented with four to six square pieces of cloth of gold, or other rich 
stuff, or of goldsmith's work, which were placed on the skirt before and 
behind, on the wrist of each sleeve, and on the back and breast. The 
dalmatic of the deacon was a kind of tunic, reaching generally a little 
below the knees, and slit some way up the sides, and with short, broad 
sleeves ; it was usually ornamented with a broad hem, which passed round 
the side slits. The sub-deacon's tunicle was like the dalmatic, but rather 
shorter, and less ornamented. The cope was a kind of cloak, usually of 
rich material, fastened across the chest by a large brooch ; it was worn by 
priests in choir and in processions, and on other occasions of state and 
ceremony. The chasuble was the Eucharistic vestment ; originally it was 
a circle of rich cloth with a slit in the middle, through which the head 
was passed, and then it fell in ample folds all round the figure. Gradu- 
ally it was made oval in shape, continually decreasing in width, so as to 
leave less of the garment to encumber the arms. In its modern shape it 
consists of two stiff rectangular pieces of cloth, one piece falling before, the 
other behind, and fastened together at the shoulders of the wearer. The 
ancient inventories of cathedrals, abbeys, and churches show us that the 
cope and chasuble were made in every colour, of every rich material, and 
sometimes embroidered and jewelled. Indeed, all the official robes of the 
clergy were of the costliest material and most beautiful workmanship which 
could be obtained. England was celebrated for its skill in the arts em- 
ployed in their production, and an anecdote of the time of Henry III. 
shows us that the English ecclesiastical vestments excited admiration and 
cupidity even at Rome. Their richness had nothing to do with personal 
pride or luxury on the part of the priests. They were not the property 
of the clergy, but were generally presented to the churches, to which they 
belonged in perpetuity ; and they were made thus costly on the principle 
of honouring the divine worship. As men gave their costliest material and 

* The alb was often of coloured materials. We find coloured albs in the mediaeval 
inventories. In Louandre's " Arts Somptuaires," vol. i. xi. siecle, is a picture of the 
canons of St. Martin of Tours in blue albs. Their costume is altogether worth notice. 

Costume of Deacon and Sub- Deacon, 239 

noblest Art for the erection of the place in which it was offered, so also for 
the appliances used in its ministration, and the robes of the ministrants. 

In full sacerdotal habit the priests wore the apparelled alb, and stole, 
and over that the dalmatic, and either the cope or the chasuble over all, 
with the amys thrown back like a hood over the cope or chasuble. Repre- 
sentations of priests in pontificalibus abound in illuminated MCS., and in 
their monumental effigies, to such an extent that we need hardly quote any 
particular examples. Representations of the inferior orders are compara- 
tively rare. Examples of deacons may be found engraved in Dr. Rock's 
" Church of our Fathers," i. 376, 378, 379, 443, and 444. Two others of 
early fourteenth-century date may be found in the Add. MS. 10,294, f. 72, 
one wearing a dalmatic of cloth of gold, the other of scarlet, over the alb. 
Two others of the latter part of the fourteenth century are seen in King 
Richard II.'s Book of Hours (Dom. A. xvii. f. 176), one in blue dalmatic 
embroidered with gold, the other red embroidered with gold. A monu- 
mental effigy of a deacon under a mural arch at Avon Dassett, Warwick- 
shire, was referred to by Mr. M. H. Bloxam, in a recent lecture at the 
Architectural Museum, South Kensington. The effigy, which is of the 
thirteenth century, is in alb, stole, and dalmatic. We are indebted to 
Mr. Bloxam for a note of another mutilated effigy of a deacon of the four- 
teenth century among the ruins of Furness Abbey ; he is habited in the 
alb only, with a girdle round the middle, whose tasselled knobs hang down 
in front. The stole is passed across the body from the left shoulder, and 
is fastened together at the right hip. 

Dr. Rock, vol. i. p. 384, engraves a very good representation of a ninth- 
century sub-deacon in his tunicle, holding a pitcher in one hand and an 
empty chalice in the other ; and in vol. ii. p. 89, an acolyte, in what 
seems to be a surplice, with a scarlet hood — part of his ordinary costume 
— over it, the date of the drawing being dr. 1395 a.d. We have already 
noted the costume of an ostiary at p. 215. In the illuminations we 
frequently find an inferior minister attending upon a priest when engaged 
in his office, but in many cases it is difficult to determine whether he 
is deacon, sub-deacon, or acolyte, e.g. — in the early fourteenth-century 
MS., Add. 10,294, at f. 72, is a priest officiating at a funeral, attended by a 


The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

minister, who is habited in a pink under robe — his ordinary dress — and 
over it a short white garment with wide loose sleeves, which may be either 
a deacon's dalmatic, or a sub-deacon's tunic, or an acolyte's surplice. In 
the Add. MS. 10,293, at f. 154, is a representation of a priest celebrating 
mass in a hermitage, with a minister kneeling behind him, habited in a 
white alb only, holding a lighted taper. Again, in the MS. Royal, 
14 E. hi. f. 86, is a picture of a prior dressed like some 0/ the canons in 

Coronation Procession of Charles V. of France. 

our woodcut from Richard II.'s Book of Hours, in a blue under robe, 
white surplice, and red stole crossed over the breast, and his furred hood 
on his head ; he is baptizing a heathen king, and an attendant minister, 
who is dressed in the ordinary secular habit of the time, stands beside, 
holding the chrismatory. In the same history of Richard Earl of Warwick 
which we have already quoted, there is at f. 213 v., a boy in a short 
surplice with a censer. In the early fourteenth-century MS., Royal, 
14 E. iii. at f. 84 v., is a picture of a bishop anointing a king; an 

Ordinary Dress of the Clergy. 241 

attendant minister, who carries a holy water vessel and aspersoir, is 
dressed in a surplice over a pink tunic. The surplice is found in almost 
as many and as different shapes in the Middle Ages as now ; sometimes 
with narrow sleeves and tight up to the neck ; sometimes with shorter and 
wider sleeves and falling low at the neck ; sometimes longer and sometimes 
shorter in the skirt; never, however, so long as altogether to hide the 
cassock beneath. In addition to the references already given, it may be 
sufficient to name as further authorities for ecclesiastical costumes gene- 
rally : — for Saxon times, the Benedictional of St. Ethelwold, engraved in 
the Archagologia ; for the thirteenth century, Queen Mary's Psalter, Royal, 
2 B. vii. ; for the fourteenth, Royal, 20, c. vii. ; for the fifteenth century, 
Lydgate's " Life of St. Edmund ; " for the sixteenth century, Hans Burg- 
maier's " Der Weise Konig," and the various works on sepulchral monu- 
ments and monumental brasses. 

The accompanying woodcut from CoL Johnes's Froissart, vol. i. p. 635, 
representing the coronation procession of Charles V. of France, will help 
us to exhibit some of the orders of the clergy with their proper costume 
and symbols. First goes the aquabajalus, in alb, sprinkling holy water ; 
then a cross-bearer in cassock and surplice ; then two priests, in cassock, 
surplice, and cope ; then follows a canon in his cap (biretta), with his 
furred amys over his arm.*. 

But the clergy wore these robes only when actually engaged in some 
official act What was their ordinary costume is generally little known, 
and it is a part of the subject in which we are especially interested in these 
papers. From the earliest times of the English Church downwards it was 
considered by the rulers of the Church that clergymen ought to be dis- 
tinguished from laymen not only by the tonsure, but also by their dress. 
We do not find that any uniform habit was prescribed to them, such as 
distinguished the regular orders of monks and friars from the laity, and 
from one another ; but we gather from the canons of synods, and the 
injunctions of bishops, that the clergy were expected to wear their clothes 

* For another ecclesiastical procession which shows very clearly the costnmf- of the 
rarious orders of clergy, see Achille Jubinal's " Anciennes Tapisseries," plate ii. 


242 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

not too gay in colour, and not too fashionably cut; that they were to 
abstain from wearing ornaments or carrying arms ; and that their horse 
furniture was to be in the same severe style. We also gather from the 
frequent repetition of canons on the subject, and the growing earnestness 
of their tone, that these injunctions were very generally disregarded. We 
need not take the reader through the whole series of authorities which 
may be found in the various collections of councils ; a single quota- 
tion from the injunctions of John (Stratford) Archbishop of Canterbury, 
a.d. 1342, will suffice to give us a comprehensive sketch of the general 
contents of the whole series. 

" The external costume often shows the internal character and condi- 
tion of persons; and though the behaviour of clerks ought to be an 
example and pattern of the laity, yet the abuse of clerks, which has gained 
ground more than usually in these days in tonsures, in garments, in horse 
trappings, and other things, has now generated an abominable scandal 
among the people, while persons holding ecclesiastical dignities, rectories, 
honourable prebends, and benefices with cure of souls, even when ordained 
to holy orders, scorn to wear the crown (which is the token of the heavenly 
kingdom and of perfection), and, using the distinction of hair extended 
almost to the shoulders like effeminate persons, walk about clothed in a 
military rather than a clerical outer habit, viz., short, or notably scant, and 
with excessively wide sleeves, which do not cover the elbows, but hang 
down, lined, or, as they say, turned up with fur or silk, and hoods with 
tippets of wonderful length, and with long beards ; and rashly dare, con- 
trary to the canonical sanctions, to use rings indifferently on their fingers ; 
and to be girt with zones, studded with precious stones of wonderful size 
with purses engraved with various figures, enamelled and gilt, and attached 
to them (i.e. to the girdle), with knives, hanging after the fashion of swords, 
also with buskins red and even checked, green shoes and peaked and cut* 
in many ways, with cruppers (croj>eriis) to their saddles, and horns hang- 
ing to their necks, capes and cloaks furred openly at the edges to such an 
extent, that little or no distinction appears of clerks from laymen, whereby 

* Incisis, cut and slashed so as to show the lining. 

Ordinary Dress of the Clergy. 243 

they render themselves, through their demerits, unworthy of the privilege 
of their order and profession. 

" We therefore, wishing henceforward to prevent such errors, &c, com- 
mand and ordain, that whoever obtain ecclesiastical benefices in our 
province, especially if ordained to holy orders, wear clerical garments and 
tonsure suitable to their status; but if any clerks of our province go 
publicly in an outer garment short, or notably scant, or in one with long 
or excessively wide sleeves, not touching the elbow round about, but 
hanging, with untonsured hair and long beard, or publicly wear their rings 
on their fingers, &c, if, on admonition, they do not reform within six 
months, they shall be suspended, and shall only be absolved by their 
diocesan, and then only on condition that they pay one-fifth of a year's 
income to the poor of the place through the diocesan," &c, &c 

The authorities tried to get these canons observed. Grostete sent back 
a curate who came to him for ordination " dressed in rings and scarlet like 
a courtier." * Some of the vicars of York Cathedral \ were presented in 
1362 a.d. for being in the habit of going through the city in short tunics, 
ornamentally trimmed, with knives and baselards \ hanging at their girdles. 
But the evidence before us seems to prove that it was not only the aco- 
lyte-rectors, and worldly-minded clerics, who indulged in such fashions, 
but that the secular clergy generally resisted these endeavours to impose 
upon them anything approaching to a regular habit like those worn by 
the monks and friars, and persisted in refusing to wear sad colours, or to 
cut their coats differently from other people, or to abstain from wearing a 
gold ring or an ornamented girdle. In the drawings of the secular 
clergy in the illuminated MSS., we constantly find them in the ordinary 
civil costume. Even in representations of the different orders and ranks 
of the secular clergy drawn by friendly hands, and intended to represent 
them comme ilfaut, we find them dressed in violation of the canons. 

* Monumenta Franciscana, Ixxxix. Master of the Rolls' publications, 
t York Fabric Rolls, p. 243. 

\ This word, which will frequently occur, means a kind of ornamental dagger, which 
was worn hanging at the girdle in front by civilians, and knights when out of armour. 
The instructions to parish priests, already quoted, says — 

In honeste clothes thow muste gon 
Baseiard ny bawdry ke were thou 


The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages, 

We have already had occasion to notice a bishop in a blue-grey gown 
and hood, over a blue under-robe ; and a prior performing a royaljbaptism, 
and canons performing service under the presidency of their bishop, with 
the blue and red robes of every-day life under their ritual surplices. The 
MSS. furnish us with an abundance of other examples, eg. — In the early 
fourteenth-century MS., Add. 10,293, at £ I 3 I v -> * s a picture showing 
" how the priests read before the barony che letter which the false queen 
sent to Arthur." One of the persons thus described as priests has a blue 
gown and hood and black shoes, the other a claret-coloured gown and hood 
and red shoes. 

But our best examples are those in the book (Cott. Nero D. vii.) before 

quoted, in which the grateful monks of St. 
Alban's have recorded the names and good 
deeds of those who had presented gifts or 
done services to the convent. In many 
cases the scribe has given us a portrait of 
the benefactor in the margin of the record ; 
and these portraits supply us with an 
authentic gallery of typical portraits of the 
various orders of society of the time at 
which they were executed. From these 
we have taken the three examples we here 
present to the reader. On f. 100 v. is a 
portrait of one Lawrence, a clerk, who is 
dressed in a brown robe ; another clerk, 
William by name, is in a scarlet robe and 
hood; on f. 93 v., Leofric, a deacon, is 
in a blue robe and hood. The accom- 
panying woodcut, from folio 105, is Dns. 
Ricardus de Threton, sacerdos, — Sir Richard de Threton, priest, — who 
was executor of Sir Robert de Thorp, knight, formerly chancellor of the 
king, and who gave twenty marks to the convent. Our woodcut 
gives only the outlines of the full-length portrait. In the original the 
robe and hood are of full bright blue, lined with white ; the under sleeves, 

Dns. Ricardusde Threton, Sacerdos. 

Ordinary Dress of the Clergy. 


which appear at the wrists, are of the same colour ; and the shoes are red. 
At f. 106 v. is Dns. Bartholomeus de Wendone, rector of the church of 
Thakreston, and the character of the face leads us to think that it may 
have been intended for a portrait. His robe and hood and sleeves are 
scarlet, with black shoes. Another rector, Dns. Johannes Rodland (at 
f. 105), rector of the church of Todyngton, has a green robe and scarlet 
hood. Still another rector, of the church of Little Waltham, is represented 
half-length in pink gown and purple hood. On f. 108 v. is the full- 
length portrait which is here represented. It is of Dns. Rogerus, chaplain 


Dns. Barth. de Wendone, Rector. Dns. Rogerus, Capellanus. 

of the chapel of the Earl of Warwick, at Flamsted. Over a scarlet gown, 
of the same fashion as those in the preceding pictures, is a pink cloak lined 
with blue ; the hood is scarlet, of the same suit as the gown ; the buttons 
at the shoulder of the cloak are white, the shoes red. It will be seen also 
that all three of these clergymen wear the moustache and beard. 

Dominus Robertas de Walsham, precentor of Sarum (f. 100 v.), is in 
his choir habit, a white surplice, and over it a fur amys fastened at the 
throat with a brooch. Dns. Robertas de Hereforde, Dean of Sarum 


The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages, 

(f. 101), has a lilac robe and hood fastened by a gold brooch. There is 
another dean, Magister Johnnes Appleby, Dean of St. Paul's, at f. 105, 
whose costume is not very distinctly drawn. It may be necessary to 
assure some of our readers, that the colours here described were not given 
at the caprice of a limner wishing to make his page look gay. The portraits 
were perhaps imaginary, but the personages are habited in the costume 
proper to their rank and order. The series of Benedictine abbots and 

John Ball, Priest. 

monks in the same book are in black robes ; other monks introduced are 
in the proper habit of their order ; a king in his royal robes ; a knight 
sometimes in armour, sometimes in the civil costume of his rank, with a 
sword by his side, and a chaplet round his flowing hair ; a lady in the 
fashionable dress of the time ; a burgher in his proper habit, with his hair 
cut short. And so the clergy are represented in the dress which they 
usually wore ; and, for our purpose, the pictures are more valuable than if 
they were actual portraits of individual peculiarities of costume, because 
we are the more sure that they give us the usual and recognised costume 
of the several characters. Indeed, it is a rule, which has very rare 

Ordinary Dress of the Clergy, 247 

exceptions, that the mediaeval illuminators represented contemporary 

subjects with scrupulous accuracy. We give another representation from 

the picture of John Ball, the priest who was concerned in Wat Tyler's 

rebellion, taken from a MS. of Froissart's Chronicle, in the Bibliotheque 

Imperiale at Paris. The whole picture is interesting ; the background is 

a church, in whose churchyard are three tall crosses. Ball is preaching 

from the pulpit of his saddle to the crowd of insurgents who occupy the 

left side of the picture. In the Froissart MS. HarL 4,380, at f. 20, is a 

picture of un vaillant hornme et derque nommi Maistre Johan Warennes, 

preaching against Pope Boniface ; he is in a pulpit panelled in green and 

gold, with a pall hung over the front, and the people sit on benches 

before him ; he is habited in a blue robe and hood lined with white. 

The author of Piers Ploughman, carping at the clergy in the latter half 

of the fourteenth century, says it would be better 

" If many a priest bare for their baselards and their brooches, 
A pair of beads in their hand, and a book under their arm. 
Sire* John and Sire Geffrey hath a girdle of silver, 
A baselard and a knife, with botons overgilt." 

* The honorary title of Sir was given to priests down to a late period. A law of 
Canute declared a priest to rank with the second order of thanes — i.e., with the landed 
gentry. " By the laws, armorial, civil, and of arms, a priest in his place in civil conver- 
sation is always before any esquire, as being a knight's fellow by his holy orders, and the 
third of the three Sirs which only were in request of old (no baron, viscount, earl, nor 

marquis being then in use), to wit, Sir King, Sir Knight, and Sir Priest. But 

afterwards Sir in English was restrained to these four, — Sir Knight, Sir Priest, and Sir 
Graduate, and, in common speech, Sir Esquire ; so always, since distinction of titles 
were, Sir Priest was ever the second." — A Decacordon of Quodlibetical Questions con- 
cerning Religion and State, quoted in Knight's Shakespeare, Vol. I. of Comedies, note 
to Sc. 1, Act i. of " Merry Wives of Windsor." In Shakespeare's characters we have Sir 
Hugh Evans and Sir Oliver Martext, and, at a later period still, " Sir John" was the 
popular name for a priest. Piers Ploughman (Vision XI. 304) calls them " God's kniyuts," 

And also in the Psalter says David to overskippers, 

Psallite Deo nostro, psallite ; quoniam rex terre 

Deus Israel; psallite sapienter. 

The Bishop shall be blamed before God, as I leve [believe] 

That crowneth such goddes knightes that conneth nought sapienter 

Synge ne psalm es rede ne segge a masse of the day. 

Ac never neyther is blameless the bisshop ne the chapleyne, 

For her either is endited ; and that of L'norancia 

Hon excusat episcopos, nee idiotes prestcs. 

248 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

A little later, he speaks of proud priests habited in patlocks, — a short 
jacket worn by laymen, — with peaked shoes and large knives or daggers. 
And in the poems of John Audelay, in the fifteenth century, a parish priest 
is described in 

"His girdle harnesched with silver, his baselard hangs by." 

In the wills of the clergy they themselves describe their " togas " of gay 
colours, trimmed with various furs, and their ornamented girdles and 
purses, and make no secret of the obj ectionable knives and baselards. In the 
Bury St. Edmunds Wills, Adam de Stanton, a chaplain, a.d. 1370, bequeaths 
one girdle, with purse and knife, valued at $s. — a rather large sum of money 
in those days. In the York wills, John Wynd-hill, Rector of Amecliffe, 
a.d. 1431, bequeaths a pair of amber beads, such as Piers Ploughman says 
a priest ought " to bear in his hand, and a book under his arm ; " and, 
curiously enough, in the next sentence he leaves " an English book of 
Piers Ploughman ;" but he does not seem to have been much influenced 
by the popular poet's invectives, for he goes on to bequeath two green 
gowns and one of murrey and one of sanguine colour, besides two of 
black, all trimmed with various furs; also, one girdle of sanguine silk, 
ornamented with silver, and gilded, and another zone of green and white, 
ornamented with silver and gilded ; and he also leaves behind him — 
proh pudor — his best silver girdle, and a baselard with ivory and silver 
handle. John Gilby, Rector of Knesale, 1434-5, leaves a red toga, furred 
with byce, a black zone of silk with gilt bars, and a zone ornamented 
with silver. J. Bagule, Rector of All Saints, York, a.d. 1438, leaves a 
little baselard, with a zone harnessed with silver, to Sir T. Astell, a chap- 
lain. W. Duffield, a chantry priest at York, ad. 1443, leaves a black zone 
silvered, a purse called a "gypsire," and a white purse of " Burdeux." 
W. Siverd, chaplain, leaves to H. Hobshot a hawk-bag ; and to W. Day, 
parochial chaplain of Calton, a pair of hawk-bag rings ; and to J. Sarle, 
chaplain, " my ruby zone, silvered, and my toga, furred with ' bevers ;' " 
and to the wife of J. Bridlington, " a ruby purse of satin." R. Rolleston, 
provost of the church of Beverley, a.d. 1450, leaves a " toga lunata" with 
a red hood, a toga and hood of violet, a long toga and hood of black, 
trimmed with martrons, and a toga and hood of violet. J. Clyft, chaplain, 

Ordinary Dress of the Clergy. 


a.d. 1455, leaves a zone of silk, ornamented with silver. J. Tidman, 
chaplain, a.d. 1458, a toga of violet and one of meld. C. Lassels, chap- 
lain, A.D. 1 46 1, a green toga and a white zone, silvered. T. Horneby, 
rector of Stokesley, a.d. 1464, a red toga and hood ; and, among the Rich- 
mondshire Wills, we find that of Sir Henry Hailed, Lady-priest of the 
parish of Kirby-in-Kendal, in 1542 a.d. (four years before the suppression 
of the chantries), who leaves a short gown and a long gown, whose colour 
is not specified, but was probably black, which seems by this time to have 
been the most usual clerical wear. 

The accompanying woodcut will admirably illustrate the ornamented 
girdle, purse, and knife, of which we have 
been reading. It is from a MS. of Chau- 
cer's poem of the Romaunt of the Rose 
(HarL 4,425, f. 143), and represents a 
priest confessing a lady in a church. 
The characters in the scene are, like the 
poem, allegorical; the priest is Genius, 
and the lady is Dame Nature ; but it is 
not the less an accurate picture of a con- 
fessional scene of the latter part of the 
fourteenth century. The priest is habited 
in a robe of purple, with a black cap and 
a black liripipe attached to it, brought 
over the shoulder to the front, and falling 
over the arm. The tab, peeping from 
beneath the cap above the ear, is red ; 
the girdle, purse, and knife, are, in the original illumination, very clearly 
represented. In another picture of the same person, at f. 106, the black 
girdle is represented as ornamented with little circles of gold. 

Many of these clergymen had one black toga with hood en suite— not 
for constant use in divine service, for, as we have already seen, they are 
generally represented in the illuminations with coloured ■ togas" under 
their surplices,— but perhaps, for wear on mourning occasions. Thus, in 
the presentations of York Cathedral, aj>. 15 19, " We thynke it were con- 

A Priest Confessing a Lady. 

250 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

venient that whene we fetche a corse to the churche, that we shulde be in 
our blak abbettes [habits] mornyngly, w 4 our hodes of the same of our 
hedes, as is used in many other places." * 

At the time of the Reformation, when the English clergy abandoned 
the mediaeval official robes, they also desisted from wearing the tonsure, 
which had for many centuries been the distinguishing mark of a 
cleric, and they seem generally to have adopted the academical 
dress, for the model both ot their official and their ordinary dress. 
The Puritan clergy adopted a costume which differed little, if at all, from 
that of the laity of the same school. But it is curious that this question 
of clerical dress continued to be one of complaint on one side, and resist- 
ance on the other, down to the end of our ecclesiastical legislation. The 
74th canon of 1603 is as rhetorical in form, and as querulous in tone, and 
as minute in its description of the way in which ecclesiastical persons 
should, and the way in which they should not, dress, as is the Injunction 
of 1342, which we have already quoted. " The true, ancient, and flourish- 
ing churches of Christ, being ever desirous that their prelacy and clergy 
might be had as well in outward reverence, as otherwise regarded for the 
worthiness of their ministry, did think it fit, by a prescript form of decent 
and comely apparel, to have them known to the people, and thereby to 
receive the honour and estimation due to the special messengers and 
ministers of Almighty God : we, therefore, following their grave judgment 
and the ancient custom of the Church of England, and hoping that in time 
new fangleness of apparel in some factious persons will die of itself, do 
constitute and appoint, that the archbishops and bishops shall not intermit 
to use the accustomed apparel of their degree. Likewise, all deans, 
masters of colleges, archdeacons, and prebendaries, in cathedrals and 
collegiate churches (being priests or deacons), doctors in divinity, law, and 
physic, bachelors in divinity, masters of arts, and bachelors of law, having 
any ecclesiastical living, shall wear gowns with standing collars, and 
sleeves straight at the hands, or wide sleeves, as is used in the universities, 
with hoods or tippets of silk or sarcenet, and square caps ; and that all 

* York Fabric Rolls, p. 268. 

Canonical Costume. 


other ministers admitted, or to be admitted, into that function, shall also 
usually wear the like apparel as is aforesaid, except tippets only. We 
do further in like manner ordain, that all the said ecclesiastical persons 
above mentioned shall usually wear on their journeys cloaks with sleeves, 
commonly called Priests' Cloaks, without guards, welts, long buttons, or 
cuts. And no ecclesiastical person shall wear any coif, or wrought night- 
cap, but only plain night caps of black silk, satin, or velvet. In all which 
particulars concerning the apparel here prescribed, our meaning is not to 
attribute any holiness or special worthiness to the said garments, but for 
decency, gravity, and order, as is before specified. In private houses and 
in their studies the said persons ecclesiastical may use any comely and 
scholarlike apparel, provided that it be not cut or pinkt; and that in 
public they go not in their doublet and hose without coats or cassocks ; 
and that they wear not any light-coloured stockings. Likewise, poor 
beneficed men and curates (not being able to provide themselves long 
gowns) may go in short gowns of the fashion aforesaid." 

The portraits prefixed to the folio works of the great divines of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have made us familiar with the 
fact, that at the time of the Reformation the clergy wore the beard 
and moustache. They continued to wear the cassock and gown as their 
ordinary out-door costume until as late as the time of George II. ; but in 
the fashion of doublet and hose, hats, shoes, and hair, they followed the 
custom of other gentlemen. Mr. Fairholt, in his " Costume in England," 
p. 327, gives us a woodcut from a print of 1680 a.d., which admirably illus- 
trates the ordinary out-door dress of a clergyman of the time of William 
and Mary. 



HEN, in oui endeavour to realise the life of these secular clergymen 
of the Middle Ages, we come to inquire, What sort of houses did 
they live in ? how were these furnished ? what sort of life did 
their occupants lead? what kind of men were they? it is curious how 
little seems to be generally known on the subject, compared with what we 
know about the houses and life and character of the regular orders. In- 
stead of gathering together what others have said, we find ourselves 
engaged in an original investigation of a new and obscure subject. The 
case of the cathedral and collegiate clergy, and that of the isolated 
parochial clergy, form two distinct branches of the subject. The limited 
space at our disposal will not permit us to do justice to both ; the latter 
branch of the subject is less known, and perhaps the more generally 
interesting, and we shall therefore devote the bulk of our space to it. We 
will only premise a few words on the former branch. 

The bishop of a cathedral of secular canons had his house near his 
cathedral, in which he maintained a household equal in numbers and 
expense to that of the secular barons among whom he took rank; the 
chief difference being, that the spiritual lord's family consisted rather of 
chaplains and clerks than of squires and men-at-arms. The bishop's 
palace at Wells is a very interesting example in an unusually perfect con- 
dition. Britton gives an engraving of it as it appeared before the reign of 
Edward VI. The bishop besides had other residences on his manors, 
some of which were castles like those of the other nobility. Farnham, the 
present residence of the see of Winchester, is a noble example, which still 

The Cathedral Close. 253 

serves its original purpose. Of the cathedral closes many still remain 
sufficiently unchanged to enable us to understand their original condition. 
Take Lincoln for example. On the north side of the church, in the angle 
between the nave and transept, was the cloister, with the polygonal 
chapter-house on the east side. The lofty wall which enclosed the pre- 
cincts yet remains, with its main entrance in the middle of the west wall, 
opposite the great doors of the cathedral. This gate, called the Exchequer 
Gate, has chambers over it, devoted probably to the official business of the 
diocese. There are two other smaller gates at the north-east and south- 
st corners of the close, and there is a postern on the south side. The 
bishop's palace, whose beautiful and interesting ruins and charming 
rounds still remain, occupied the slope of the southern hill outside the 
lose. The vicar's court is in the corner of the close near the gateway 
the palace grounds. A fourteenth-century house, which was the official 
jsidence of the chaplain of one of the endowed chantries, still remains on 
le south side of the close, nearly opposite the choir door. On the east 
ide of the close the fifteenth-century houses of several of the canons 
still remain, and are interesting examples of the domestic architecture of 
the time. It is not difficult from these data to picture to ourselves the 
original condition of this noble establishment when the cathedral, with 
its cloister and chapter-house, stood isolated in the middle of the green 
sward, and the houses of the canons and chaplains formed a great irregular 
madrangle round it, and the close walls shut them all in from the outer 
rorld, and the halls and towers of the bishop's palace were still perfect 
idst its hanging gardens enclosed within their own walls, the quadrangle 
)f houses which had been built for the cathedral vicars occupying a corner 
it out of the bishop's grounds beside his gateway. And we can repeople 
the restored close. Let it be on the morning of one of the great festivals ; 
let the great bells be ringing out their summons to high mass ; and we shall 
see the dignified canons in amice and cap crossing the green singly on 
leir way from their houses to their stalls in the choir ; the vicars convers- 
lg in a little group as they come across from their court ; the surpliced 
lorister boys under the charge of their schoolmaster ; a band of minstrels 
rith flutes, and hautboys, and viols, and harps, and organs, coming in 

254 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

from the city, to use their instruments in the rood-loft to aid the voices of 
the choir ; scattered clerks and country clergy, and townspeople, are all con- 
verging to the great south door ; and last of all the lord bishop, in cope and 
mitre, emerges from his gateway, preceded by his cross-bearer, attended by 
noble or royal guests, and followed by a suite of officials and clerks ; while 
over all the great bells ring out their joyous peal to summon the people 
to the solemn worship of God in the mother church of the vast diocese. 

But we must turn to our researches into the humbler life of the country 
rectors and vicars. And first, what sort of houses did they live in ? We 
have not been able to find one of the parsonage houses of an earlier date 
than the Reformation still remaining in a condition sufficiently unaltered 
to enable us to understand what they originally were. There is an ancient 
rectory house of the fourteenth century at West Deane, Sussex,* of which 
we give a ground-plan and north-east view on the following page ; but the 
rectory belonged to the prior and convent of Benedictine Monks of Wil- 
mington, and this house was probably their grange, or cell, and may have 
been inhabited by two of their monks, or by their tenant, and not by the 
parish priest. Again, there is a very picturesque rectory house, of the 
fifteenth century, at Little Chesterton, near Cambridge,! but this again is 
believed to have been a grange, or cell, of a monastic house. 

In the absence of actual examples, we are driven to glean what informa- 
tion we can from other sources. There remain to us a good many of the 
deeds of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, by which, on the impro- 
priation of the benefices, provision was made for the permanent endow- 
ment of vicarages in them. In the majority of cases the old rectory 
house was assigned as the future vicarage house, and no detailed descrip- 
tion of it was necessary ; but in the deed by which the rectories of Saw- 
bridgeworth, in Herts, and Kelvedon, in Essex, were appropriated to the 
convent of Westminster, we are so fortunate as to find descriptions of the 
fourteenth-century parsonage houses, one of which is so detailed as to 
enable any one who is acquainted with the domestic architecture of the 

* Described and engraved in the Sussex Archaeological Collections, vii. f. 13. 
t Described and engraved in Mr. Parker's " Domestic Architecture." 

Parsonage Houses. 


time to form a very definite picture of the whole building. In the case of 
Sawbridgeworth, the old rectory house was assigned as the vicarage house, 
and is thus described — " All the messuage which is called the priest's 

Rectory House, West Deane, Sussex. 

A Entrance door. 
B Windows. 

Length of exterior , 
Width of interior . 

ft. in. 
36 6 
14 10 

messuage, with the houses thereon built, that is to say, one hall with two 
chambers, with a buttery, cellar, kitchen, stable, and other fitting and 
decent houses, with all the garden as it is enclosed with walls to the said 


256 The Secular Clergy of Ike 3 fiddle Ages. 

messuage belonging." The description of the parsonage house at Kelve- 
don is much more definite and intelligible. For this the deed tells us the 
convent assigned — " One hall situate in the manor of the said abbot and 
convent near the said church, with a chamber and soler at one end of the 
hall and with a buttery and cellar at the other. Also one other house in 
three parts, that is to say, for a kitchen with a convenient chamber in the 
end of the said house for guests, and a bakehouse. Also one other house 
in two parts, next the gate at the entrance of the manor, for a stable and 
cowhouse. He (the vicar) shall also have a convenient grange, to be 
built within a year at the expense of the prior and convent. He shall also 
have the curtilage with the garden adjoining to the hall on the north side, 
as it is enclosed with hedges and ditches." The date of the deed is 
1356 a.d., and it speaks of these houses as already existing. Now the 
common arrangement of a small house at that date, and for near a century 
before and after, was this, " a hall in the centre, with a soler at one end 
and offices at the other."* A description which exactly agrees with the 
account of the Kelvedon house, and enables us to say with great proba- 
bility that in the Sawbridgeworth "priest's messuage" also, the two 
chambers were at one end of the hall, and the buttery, cellar, and kitchen 
at the other, the stable and other fitting and decent houses being detached 
from and not forming any portion of the dwelling house. 

Confining ourselves, however, to the Kelvedon house, a little study will 
enable us to reconstruct it conjecturally with a very high probability of 
being minutely accurate in our conjectures. First of all, a house of this 
character in the county of Essex would, beyond question, be a timber 
house. To make our description clearer we have given a rough diagram 
of our conjectural arrangement. Its principal feature was, of course, the 
" one hall " (a). We know at once what the hall of a timber house of this 
period of architecture would be. It would be a rather spacious and lofty 
apartment, with an open timber roof; the principal door of the house 
would open into the " screens " (d), at the lower end of the hall, and the 
back door of the house would be at the other end of the screens. At the 

• Parker's "Domestic Architecture," ii. p. 87. 

Kelvedon Rectory in the Fourteenth Century. 257 

upper end of the hall would be the raised dais (b), at which the master of 
the house sat with his family. The fireplace would either be an open 
hearth in the middle of the hall, like that which still exists in the four- 
teenth-century hall at Penshurst Place, Kent, or it would be an open fire- 
place, under a projecting chimney, at the further side of the hall, such as 
is frequently seen in MS. illuminations of the small houses of the period. 
There was next " a chamber and soler at one end of the hall." The soler 
of a mediaeval house was the chief apartment after the hall, it answered to 
the " great chamber " of the sixteenth century, and to the parlour or draw- 
ing-room of more modern times. It was usually adjacent to the upper end 




D j A 


Conjectural Plan of Rectory-House at Kelvedon, Essex. 

of the hall, and built on transversely to it, with a window at each end. It 
was usually raised on an undercroft, which was used as a storeroom or 
cellar, so that it was reached by a stair from the upper end of the hall. 
Sometimes, instead of a mere undercroft, there was a chamber under the 
soler, which was the case here, so that we have added these features to our 
plan (c). Next there was " a buttery and cellar at the other " end of the 
hall. In the buttery in those days were kept wine and beer, table linen, 
cups, pots, &c. : and in the cellar the stores of eatables which, it must be 
remembered, were not bought in weekly from the village shop, or the next 
market town, but were partly the produce of the glebe and tithe, and partly 


25 8 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

were laid in yearly or half-yearly at some neighbouring fair. The buttery 
and cellar — they who are familiar with old houses, or with our colleges, will 
remember — are always at the lower end of the hall, and open upon the 
screens, with two whole or half doors side by side ; we may therefore add 
them thus upon our plan (h, i). 

The deed adds, " Also one other house in three parts." In those days 
the rooms of a house were not massed compactly together under one roof, 
but were built in separate buildings more or less detached, and each build- 
ing was called a house ; " One other house in three parts, that is to say, a 
kitchen with a convenient chamber at one end of the said house for guests, 
and a bakehouse." " The kitchen," says Mr. Parker, in his " Domestic 
Architecture," " was frequently a detached building, often connected with 
the hall by a passage or alley leading from the screens ;" and it was often 
of greater relative size and importance than modern usage would lead us 
to suppose ; the kitchens of old monasteries, mansion houses, and colleges 
often have almost the size and architectural character of a second hall. In 
the case before us it was a section of the " other house," and probably 
occupied its whole height, with an open timber roof (g). In the disposition 
of the bakehouse and convenient chamber for guests which were also in 
this other house, we meet with our first difficulty ; the " chamber " might 
possibly be over the bakehouse, which took the usual form of an under- 
croft beneath the guest chamber ; but the definition that the house was 
divided " in three parts " suggests that it was divided from top to bottom 
into three distinct sections. Inclining to the latter opinion, we have so 
disposed these apartments in our plan (f, e). 

The elevation of the house may be conjectured with as much probability 
as its plan. Standing in front of it we should have the side of the hall 
towards us, with the arched door at its lower end, and perhaps two windows 
in the side with carved wood tracery * in their heads. To the right would 
be the gable end of the chamber with soler over it; the soler would pro- 
bably have a rather large arched and traceried window in the end, the 
chamber a smaller and perhaps square-headed light. On the left would be 

* There are numerous curious examples of fifteenth-century timber window-tracery in 
the Essex churches. 

Kelvedon Rectory in the Fourteenth Century. 259 

the building, perhaps a lean-to, containing the buttery and cellar, with only 
a small square-headed light in front The accompanying wood-cut of a 
fourteenth-century house, from the Add MSS. 10,292, will help to illustrate 
our conjectural elevation of Kelvedon Rectory. It has the hall with its 
great door and arched traceried window, and at the one end a chamber 

A Fourteenth Century House. 
and soler over it. It only wants the offices at the other end to make the 
resemblance complete.* 

* The deed of settlement of the vicarage of Buhner, in the year I425, gives us the 
description of a parsonage house of similar character. It consisted of one hall with two 
chambers annexed, the bakehouse, kitchen, and larder-house, one chamber for the Wear's 
servant, a stable, and a hay-soller {Soler, loft), with a competent garden. Ingrave 
rectory house was a similar house ; it is described, in a terrier of 1610, as " a house 
containing a hall, a parlour, a buttery, two lofts, and a study, also a kitchen, a milk- 
house, and a house for poultry, a barn, a stable and a hay-house." — Newcourt, ii. p. 281. 

Ingatestone rectory, in the terrier of 1610, was " a dwelling-house with a hall, a parlour, 
and a chamber within it ; a study newly built by the then parson ; a chamber over the 
parlour, and another within that with a closet ; without the dwelling-house a kitchen and 
two little rooms adjoining to it, and a chamber over them ; two little butteries over 
against the hall, and next them a chamber, and one other chamber over the same ; without 
the kitchen there is a dove-house, and another house built by the then parson ; a bam 
and a stable very ruinous." — Newcourt, ii. 348. Here, too, we seem to have an old 
house with hall in the middle, parlour and chamber at one end and two butteries at the 
other, in the midst of successive additions. 

There is also a description of the rectory house of West Haningfield, Essex, in New- 
court, ii. 309, and of North Bemfleet, ii. 46. 

260 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages, 

Of later date probably and greater size, resembling a moated manoi 
house, was the rectory of Great Bromley, Essex, which is thus described in 
the terrier of 1610 a.d. : " A large parsonage house compass'd with a Mote, 
a Gate-house, with a large chamber, and a substantial bridge of timber 
adjoining to it, a little yard, an orchard, and a little garden, all within the 
Mote, which, together with the Circuit of the House, contains about half 
an Acre of Ground ; and without the Mote there is a Yard, in which there 
is another Gate-house and a stable, and a hay house adjoining ; also a barn 
of 25 yards long and 9 yards wide, and about 79 Acres and a-half of glebe- 
land." * The outbuildings were perhaps arranged as a courtyard outside 
the moat to which the gate-house formed an entrance, so that the visitor 
would pass through this outer gate, through the court of offices, over the 
bridge, and through the second gate-house into the base court of the house. 
This is the arrangement at Ightham Mote, Kent. 

The parish chaplains seem to have had houses of residence provided for 
them. The parish of St. Michael-le-Belfry, York, complained in its visita- 
tion presentment, in the year 1409, that there was no house assigned for 
the parish chaplain or for the parish clerk. That they were small houses 
we gather from the fact that in some of the settlements of vicarages it is 
required that a competent house shall be built for the vicar where the 
parish chaplain has been used to live ; e.g. at Great Bentley, Essex, it was 
ordered in 1323, that the vicars " shall have one competent dwelling-house 
with a sufficient curtilage, where the parish chaplain did use to abide, to be 
prepared at the cost of the said prior and convent." t And at the settle- 
ment of the vicarage of St. Peter's, Colchester, a.d. 13 19, it was required 
that " the convent of St. Botolph's, the impropriators, should prepare a 
competent house for the vicar in the ground of the churchyard where a 
house was built for the parish chaplain of the said church." At Radwinter, 
Essex, we find by the terrier of 1610 a.d., that there were two mansions 
belonging to the benefice, " on the south side of the church, towards the 
west end, one called the great vicarage, and in ancient time the Domus 
Capellanorum, and the other the less vicarage," which latter " formerly 

* Newcourt's " Repertorum," ii. 97. t Newcourt, ii. 49. 

The Furniture of the Parsonage. 261 

served for the ease of the Parson, and, as appears by evidence, first given 
to the end that if any of the parish were sick, the party might be sine to 
find the Parson or his curate near the church ready to go and visit him." 
At the south-west corner of the churchyard of Doddinghurst, Essex, there 
still exists a little house of fifteenth-century date, which may have been 
such a curate's house. 

From a comparison of these parsonages with the usual plan and arrange- 
ment of the houses of laymen of the fourteenth century, may be made the 
important deduction that the houses of the parochial clergy had no eccle- 
siastical peculiarities of arrangement ; they were not little monasteries or 
great recluse houses, they were like the houses of the laity ; and this agrees 
with the conclusions to which we have arrived already by other roads, 
that the secular clergy lived in very much the same style as laymen of a 
similar degree of wealth and social standing. The poor clerk lived in 
a single chamber of a citizen's house ; the town priest had a house like 
those of the citizens ; the country rector or vicar a house like the manor 
houses of the smaller gentry. 

As to the furniture of the parsonage, the wills of the clergy supply us 
with ample authorities. We will select one of about the date of the, 
Kelvedon parsonage house which we have been studying, to help us to 
conjecturally furnish the house which we have conjecturally built. Here 
is an inventory of the goods of Adam de Stanton, a chaplain, date 1370 
a.d., taken from Mr. Tymms's collection of Bury wills. " Imprimis, in 
money vi 5 - viii d and i seal of silver worth ijs." The money will seem a 
fair sum to have in hand when we consider the greater value of money 
then and especially the comparative scarcity of actual coin. The seal was 
probably his official seal as chaplain of an endowed chantry; we have 
extant examples of such seals of the beneficed clergy. u Item, iij brass 
pots and i posnet worth xj s vj 4. Item, in plate, xxij d Item, a round pot 
with a laver, j*- vj 4 -" probably an ewer and basin for washing the hands, 
like those still used in Germany, &a "Item, in iron instruments, vj* 
viiij d and vj* 1 -" perhaps fire-dogs and poker, spit, and pothook. " Item, 
in pewter vessels, iiij s ij d -" probably plates, dishes, and spoons. " Item, 
of wooden utensils," which, from comparison with other inventories of 

262 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

about the same period, we suppose may be boards and trestles for tables, 
and benches, and a chair, and perhaps may include trenchers and bowls. 
" Item, i portiforum, x s -" a book of church service so called, which must 
have been a handsome one to be worth ten shillings, perhaps it was 
illuminated. " Item, j book de Lege and j Par Statutorum, and j Book 
of Romances.* Item, j girdle with purse and knife, v 8 *" on which we have 
already commented in our last chapter. " Item, j pair of knives for the 
table, xij d> Item, j saddle with bridle and spurs, iij 3 - Item, of linen and 
woollen garments, xxviij 8 - and xij d - Item, of chests and caskets, vj 8, ij d- " 
Chests and caskets then served for cupboards and drawers.f 

If we compare these clerical inventories with those of contemporary 
laymen of the same degree, we shall find that a country parson's house 
was furnished like a small manor house, and that his domestic economy 
was very like that of the gentry of a like income. Matthew Paris tells us 
an anecdote of a certain handsome clerk, the rector of a rich church, who 
surpassed all the knights living around him in giving repeated entertain- 
ments and acts of hospitality.]: But usually it was a rude kind of life which 
the country squire or parson led, very like that which was led by the 
substantial farmers of a few generations ago, when it was the fashion for 
the unmarried farm labourers to live in the farm-house, and for the farmer 
and his household all to sit down to meals together. These were their 
hours : — 

" Rise at five, dine at nine, 
Sup at five, and bed at nine, 
Will make a man live to ninety-and-nine." 

The master of the house sat in the sole arm-chair, in the middle of the 

* George Darell, A.D. 1432, leaves one book of statutes, containing the statutes of 
Kings Edward III., Richard II., and Henry IV.; one book of law, called "Natura 
Brevium ;" one Portus, and one Par Statutorum Veterum. — Testamenta Eboracensia, ii. 
p. 27. 

t There are other inventories of the goods of clerics, which will help to throw light 
upon their domestic economy at different periods, e.g., of the vicar of Waghen, a.d. 1462, 
in the York Wills, ii. 261, and of a chantry priest, A.D. 1542, in the Sussex Archaeological 
Collections, iii. p. 115. 

\ Bonn's Edition, vol. ii. p. 278. 

Hospitality of tJie Clergy. 263 

high table on the dais, with his family on either side of him ; and his men 
sat at the movable tables of boards and trestles, with a bench on each side, 
which we find mentioned in the inventories : or the master sat at the same 
table with his men, only he sat above the salt and they below ; he drank 
his ale out of a silver cup while they drank it out of horn ; he ate white 
bread while they ate brown, and he a capon out of his curtilage while 
they had pork or mutton ham ; he retired to his great chamber when he 
desired privacy, which was not often perhaps ; and he slept in a tester bed 
in the great chamber, while they slept on truckle beds in the hall. 

One item in the description of the Kelvedon parsonage requires special 
consideration, and opens up a rather important question as to the domestic 
economy of the parochial clergy over and above what we have hitherto 
gleaned. " The convenient chamber for guests " there mentioned was not 
a best bedroom for any friend who might pay him a visit. It was a pro- 
vision for the efficient exercise of the hospitality to which the beneficed 
parochial clergy were bound. It is a subject which perhaps needs a little 
explanation. In England there were no inns where travellers could obtain 
food and lodging until the middle of the fourteenth century ; and for long 
after that period they could only be found in the largest and most important 
towns ; and it was held to be a part of the duty of the clergy to " entertain 
strangers," and be " given to hospitality." It was a charity not very likely 
to be abused ; for, thanks to bad roads, unbridged fords, no inns, wild 
moors, and vast forests haunted by lawless men, very few travelled, except 
for serious business ; and it was a real act of Christian charity to afford to 
such travellers the food and shelter which they needed, and would have 
been hard put to it to have obtained otherwise. The monasteries, we all 
know, exercised this hospitality on so large a scale, that in order to avoid 
the interruption a constant succession of guests would have made in the 
seclusion and regularity of conventual life, they provided special buildings 
for it, called the hospitium or guest house, a kind of inn within the walls, 
and they appointed one of the monks, under the name of the hospitaller 
or guest master, to represent the convent in entertaining the guests. 
Hermitages also, we have seen, were frequently built along the high roads, 
especially near bridges and fords, for the purpose of aiding travellers. 

264 The Secular Clergy of the Middle Ages. 

Along the road which led towards some famous place of pilgrimage hos- 
pitals, which were always religious foundations, were founded especially 
for the entertainment of poor pilgrims. And the parochial clergy were 
expected to exercise a similar hospitality. Thus in the replies of the 
rectors of Berkshire to the papal legate, in 1240 a.d., they say that " their 
churches were endowed and enriched by their patrons with lands and 
revenues for the especial purpose that the rectors of them should receive 
guests, rich as well as poor, and show hospitality to laity as well as clergy, 
according to their means, as the custom of the place required." * Again, 
in 1246, the clergy, on a similar occasion, stated that "a custom has 
hitherto prevailed, and been observed in England, that the rectors of 
parochial churches have always been remarkable for hospitality, and have 
made a practice of supplying food to their parishioners who were in 
want, .... and if a portion of their benefices be taken away from them, 
they will be under the necessity of refusing their hospitality, and aban- 
doning their accustomed offices of piety. And if these be withdrawn, 
they will incur the hatred of those subject to them [their parishioners], and 
will lose the favour of passers-by [travellers] and their neighbours." t 
Again, in 1253 a.d., Bishop Grostete, in his remonstrance to the Pope, 
says of the foreigners who were intruded into English benefices, that they 
" could not even take up their residence, to administer to the wants of the 
poor, and to receive travellers." \ 

There is an interesting passage illustrative of the subject quoted in 
Parker's " Domestic Architecture," i. p. 123. y£neus Sylvius, afterwards 
Pope Pius II., describing his journey from Scotland into England, in the 
year 1448, says that he entered a large village in a wild and barbarous 
part of the country, about sunset, and " alighted at a rustic's house, and 
supped there with the priest of the place and the host." The special 
mention of the priest in the first place almost leads us to conjecture that 
the foreign ecclesiastic had first gone to the priest of the place for the 
usual hospitality, and had been taken on by him to the manor house — for 

* Matthew Paris, vol. i. p. 285 (Bohn's edition), 
t Ibid., vol. ii. p. 193. 
\ Ibid., voliii. p 48. 

Hospitality of the Clergy. 265 

the " rustic " seems to have been a squire — as better able to afford him a 
suitable hospitality. Sundry pottages, and fowls, and geese, were placed 
on the table, but there was neither bread nor wine. He had, however, 
brought with him a few loaves and a roundel of wine, which he had 
received at a certain monastery. Either a stranger was a great novelty, or 
the Italian ecclesiastic had something remarkable in his appearance, for 
he says all " the people of the place ran to the house to stare at him." 

Kelvedon being on one of the great high roads of the country, its parson 
would often be called upon to exercise his duty of hospitality, hence the 
provision of a special guest chamber in the parsonage house. And so in our 
picture of the domestic economy and ordinary life of a mediaeval country 
parson we must furnish his guest chamber, and add a little to the contents 
of buttery and cellar, to provide for his duty of hospitality ; and we must 
picture him not always sitting in solitary dignity at his high table on the 
dais, but often playing the courteous host to knight and lady, merchant, 
minstrel, or pilgrim ; and after dinner giving the broken meat to the poor, 
who in the days when there was no poor law were the regular dependants 
on his bounty. 



T would carry us too far a-field to attempt to give a sketch of the 
early music of the principal nations of antiquity, such as might 
be deduced from the monuments of Egypt and Nineveh and 
Greece. We may, however, briefly glance at the most ancient minstrelsy 
of the Israelites ; partly for the sake of the peculiar interest of the subject 
itself, partly because the early history of music is nearly the same in all 
nations, and this earliest history will illustrate and receive illustration 
from a comparison with the history of music in mediaeval England. 

Musical instruments, we are told by the highest of all authorities, were 
invented in the eighth generation of the world — that is in the third gene- 
ration before the flood — by Tubal, " the Father of all such as handle the 
harp and organ, both stringed and wind instruments." The ancient 
Israelites used musical instruments on the same occasions as the mediaeval 
Europeans — in battle ; in their feasts and dances ; in processions, whether 
of religious or civil ceremony ; and in the solemnising of divine worship. 
The trumpet and the horn were then, as always, the instruments of warlike 
music — " If ye go to war then shall ye blow an alarm with the silver 
trumpets."* The trumpet regulated the march of the hosts of Israel 
through the wilderness. When Joshua compassed Jericho, the seven 

* Numb. x. 9. 

268 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

priests blew trumpets of rams' horns. Gideon and his three hundred dis- 
comfited the host of the Midianites with the sound of their trumpets. 

The Tabret was the common accompaniment of the troops of female 
dancers, whether the occasion were religious or festive. Miriam the 
prophetess took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out 
after her with timbrels and with dances, singing a solemn chorus to the 
triumphant song of Moses and of the Children of Israel over the destruc- 
tion of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, — 

" Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; 
The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."* 

Jephthah's daughter went to meet her victorious father with timbrels and 

dances : — 

" The daughter of the warrior Gileadite, 
From Mizpeh's tower'd gate with welcome light, 
With timbrel and with song." 

And so, when King Saul returned from the slaughter of the Philistines, 
after the shepherd David had killed their giant champion in the valley 
of Elah, the women came out of all the cities to meet the returning 
warriors " singing and dancing to meet King Saul, with tabrets, with joy, 
and with instruments of music;" and the women answered one another in 
dramatic chorus — 

" Saul hath slain his thousands, 
And David his ten thousands."f 

Laban says that he would have sent away Jacob and his wives and 
children, " with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp." And 
Jeremiah prophesying that times of ease and prosperity shall come again 
for Israel, says : " O Virgin of Israel, thou shalt again be adorned with 
thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry." J 

In their feasts these and many other instruments were used. Isaiah tells 
us§ that they had "the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and 
wine in their feasts ; " and Amos tells us of the luxurious people who lie 
upon beds of ivory, and " chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to 

• Exod. xv. 21. t * Sam - xviii - 7- + J er> xxxi - 4- h Is - v » l2 ' 

Minstrelsy of the Israelites. 269 

themselves instruments of music like David,' - ' and drink wine in bowls, and 
anoint themselves with the costliest perfumes. 

Instruments of music were used in the colleges of Prophets, which 
Samuel established in the land, to accompany and inspire the delivery of 
their prophetical utterances. As Saul, newly anointed, went up the hill 
of God towards the city, he met a company of prophets coming down, 
with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them, pro- 
phesying ; and the spirit of the Lord came upon Saul when he heard, and 
he also prophesied.* When Elisha was requested byjehoram to prophesy 
the fate of the battle with the Moabites, he said : " Bring me a minstrel ; 
and when the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord came upon him, and 
he prophesied." 

When David brought up the ark from Gibeah, he and all the house of 
Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir- 
wood, even on harps, psalteries, timbrels, comets, and cymbals.t And 
in the song which he himself composed to be sung on that occasion,! he 
thus describes the musical part of the procession : — 

" It is well seen how thou goest, 
How thou, my God and King, goest to the sanctuary; 
The singers go before, the minstrels follow after, 
In the midst are the damsels playing with the timbrels." 

The instruments appointed for the regular daily service of the Temple 
" by David, and Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet, for so was 
the commandment of the Lord by his prophets," were cymbals, psalteries, 
and harps, which David made for the purpose, and which were played by 
four thousand Levites. 

Besides the instruments already mentioned, — the harp, tabret, timbrel, 
psaltery, trumpet, cornet, cymbal, pipe, and viol, — they had also the lyre, 
bag-pipes, and bells; and probably they carried back with them from 
Babylon further additions, from the instruments of " all peoples, nations, 
and languages " with which they would become familiarised in that capital 
of the world. But from the time of Tubal down to the time when the 

• 1 Sam. x. 5. t 2 Sam. vi. 5. J Psalm Lwiii. 

2 JO The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

royal minstrel of Israel sang those glorious songs which are still the daily 
solace of thousands of mankind, and further down to the time when 
the captive Israelites hanged their unstrung harps upon the willows of 
Babylon, and could not sing the songs of Zion in a strange land, the harp 
continued still the fitting accompaniment of the voice in all poetical 
utterance of a dignified and solemn character : — the recitation of the 
poetical portions of historical and prophetical Scripture, for instance, 
would be sustained by it, and the songs of the psalmists of Zion were 
accompanied by its strains. And thus this sketch of the history of the 
earliest music closes, with the minstrel harp still in the foreground ; while 
in the distance we hear the sound of the fanfare of cornet, flute, harp, 
sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, which were con- 
certed on great occasions ; such as that on which they resounded over the 
plain of Dura, to bow that bending crowd of heads, as the ripe corn bends 
before the wind, to the great Image of Gold : — an idolatry, alas ! which 
the peoples, nations, and languages still perform almost as fervently as 
of old. 

The northern Bard, or Scald, was the father of the minstrels of medi- 
aeval Europe. Our own early traditions afford some picturesque anecdotes, 
proving the high estimation in which the character was held by the 
Saxons and their kindred Danes ; and showing that they were accustomed 
to wander about to court, and camp, and hall ; and were hospitably received, 
even though the Bard were of a race against which his hosts were at that 
very time encamped in hostile array. We will only remind the reader of 
the Royal Alfred's assumption of the character of a minstrel, and his visit 
in that disguise to the Danish camp (a.d. 878) ; and of the similar visit, 
ten years after, of Anlaff the Danish king to the camp of Saxon Athelstane. 
But the earliest anecdote of the kind we shall have hereafter to refer to, 
and may therefore here detail at length. It is told us by Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth, that Coigrin, the son of Ella, who succeeded Hengist in the leader- 
ship of the invading Saxons, was shut up in York, and closely besieged by 
King Arthur and his Britons. Baldulf, the brother of Colgrin, wanted to 
gain access to him, to apprise him of a reinforcement which was coming 

Saxon Minstrelsy. 271 

from Germany. In order to accomplish this design, he assumed the 
character of a minstrel. He shaved his head and beard ; and dressing 
himself in the habit of that profession, took his harp in his hand. In 
this disguise he walked up and down the trenches without suspicion, 
playing all the while upon his instrument as a harper. By little and little 
he approached the walls of the city ; and, making himself known to the 
sentinels, was in the night drawn up by a rope. 

The harper continued throughout the Middle Ages to be the most digni- 
fied of the minstrel craft, the reciter, and often the composer, of heroic 
legend and historical tale, of wild romance and amorous song. Frequently, 
and perhaps especially in the case of the higher class of harpers, he 
travelled alone, as in the cases which we have already seen of Baldulf, 
and Alfred, and Anlaff. But he also often associated himself with a band 
of minstrels, who filled up the intervals of his recitations and songs with 
their music, much as vocal and instrumental pieces are alternated in 
our modern concerts. With a band of minstrels there was also very 
usually associated a mime, who amused the audience with his feats of 
agility and leger-de-main. The association appears at first sight somewhat 
undignified — the heroic harper and the tumbler — but the incongruity was 
not peculiar to the Middle Ages ; the author of the " Iliad " wrote the 
" Battle of the Frogs," — the Greeks were not satisfied without a satiric 
drama after their grand heroic tragedy ; and in these days we have a farce 
or a pantomime after Shakspeare. We are not all Heraclituses, to see only 
the tragic side of life, or Democrituses, to laugh at everything; the 
majority of men have faculties to appreciate both classes of emotion ; 
and it would seem, from universal experience, that, as the Russian finds a 
physical delight in leaping from a vapour-bath into the frozen Neva, so 
there is some mental delight in the sudden alternate excitation of the oppo- 
site emotions of tragedy and farce. If we had time to philosophise, we 
might find the source of the delight deeply seated in our nature :— alternate 
tears and laughter — it is an epitome of human life ! 

In the accompanying woodcut from a Late Saxon MS. in the British 
Museum (Cott. Tiberius C. vi.) we have a curious evidence of the way in 
which custom blinded men to any incongruity there may be in the asso- 


The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

ciation of the harper and the juggler, for here we have David singing 
his Psalms and accompanying himself on the harp, the dove reminding 
us that he sang and harped under the influence of inspiration. He is 
accompanied by performers who must be Levites ; and yet the Saxon illu- 
minator was so used to see a mime form one of a minstrel band, that he 

Saxon Band of Minstrels. 

has introduced one playing the common feat of tossing three knives and 
three balls. 

The Saxons were a musical people. We learn from Bede's anecdote of the 
poet Caedmon, that it was usual at their feasts to pass the harp round from 
hand to hand, and every man was supposed to be able to sing in his turn, 
and accompany himself on the instrument. They had a considerable num* 

Saxon Musical Instruments. 


ber of musical instruments. In a MS. in the British Museum, Tiberius 
C. vi., folios 16 v., 17 v., 18, are a few leaves of a formal treatise on the 
subject, which give us very carefully drawn pictures of different instruments, 
with their names and descriptions. There are also illustrations of them 
in the Add. 11,695, folios 86, 86 v., 164, 170 v., 229, and in Cleopatra 
E. viii. Among them are the Psaltery of various shapes, the Sambuca 
or sackbut, the single and double Chorus. &c. Other instruments we 
find in Saxon MSS. are the lyre, viol, flute, cymbals, organ, &c. A 
set of hand-bells (carillons) which the player struck with two hammers, 
was a favourite instrument. We often find different instruments played 

Saxon Organ. 

together. At folio 93 v. of the MS. Claudius B iv. there is a group of twelve 
female harpists playing together ; one has a small instrument, probably a 
kind of lyre, the rest have great harps of the same pattern. They probably 
represent Miriam and the women of Israel joining in the triumphal song 
of Moses over the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. 

The organ, already introduced into divine service, became, under 
the hands of St. Dunstan, a large and important instrument. William of 

274 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages, 

Malmesbury says that Dunstan gave many to churches which had pipes of 
brass and were inflated with bellows. In a MS. psalter in Trinity College, 
Cambridge, is a picture of one of considerable size, which has no less than 
four bellows played by four men. It is represented in the accompanying 

1'he Northmen who invaded and gave their name to Normandy, took 
their minstrels with them ; and the learned assert that it was from them 
that the troubadours of Provence learned their art, which ripened in 
their sunny clime into la joyeuse science, and thence was carried into Italy, 
France, and Spain. It is quite certain that minstrelsy was in high repute 
among the Normans at the period of the Conquest. Every one will re- 
member how Taillefer, the minstrel-knight, commenced the great battle of 
Hastings. Advancing in front of the Norman host, he animated himself 
and them to a chivalric daring by chanting the heroic tale of Charlemagne 
and his Paladins, at the same time showing feats of skill in tossing his 
sword into the air ; and then rushed into the Saxon ranks, like a divinely- 
mad hero of old, giving in his own self-sacrifice an augury of victory to his 

From the period of the Conquest, authorities on the subject of which 
we are treating, though still not so numerous as could be desired, become 
too numerous to be all included within the limits to which our space 
restricts us. The reader may refer to Wharton's "History of English 
Poetry," to Bishop Percy's introductory essay to the " Reiiques of Early 
English Poetry," and to the introductory essay to Ellis's " Early English 
Metrical Romances," for the principal published authorities. For a series 
of learned essays on mediaeval musical instruments he may consult 
M. Didron's " Annales Archasologiques," vol. iii. pp. 76, 142, 260; vol. iv. 
pp. 25, 94; vol. vi. p. 315 ; vol. vii. pp. 92, 157, 244, 325 ; vol. viii. p. 
242 j vol. ix. pp. 289, 329.* We propose only from these and other 
published and unpublished materials to give a popular sketch of the 

Throughout this period minstrelsy was in high estimation with all 

* Also a paper read before the London and Middlesex Architectural Society in June, 

Domestic Minstrels, 275 

classes of society. The king himself, like his Saxon* predecessors, had a 
kings minstrel, or king of the minstrels, who probably from the first was at 
the head of a band of royal minstrels, t 

This fashion of the royal court, doubtless, like all its other fashions, 
obtained also in the courts of the great nobility (several instances will be 
observed in the sequel), and in their measure in the households of the 
lesser nobility. Every gentleman of estate had probably his one, two, or 
more minstrels as a regular part of his household. It is not difficult to 
discover their duties. In the representations of dinners, which occur plen- 
tifully in the mediaeval MSS., we constantly find musicians introduced ; 
sometimes we see them preceding the servants, who are bearing the dishes 
to table — a custom of classic usage, and which still lingers to this day 
at Queen's College, Oxford, in the song with which the choristers usher in 
the boar's head on Christmas-day, and at our modern public dinners, 

* The king's minstrel of the last Saxon king is mentioned in Domesday Book as hold- 
ing lands in Gloucestershire. 

t In the reign of Henry I., Rayer was the King's Minstrel. Temp. Henry H., it was 
Galfrid, or Jeffrey. Temp. Richard I., Blondel, of romantic memory. Temp. Henry III., 
Master Ricard. It was the Harper of Prince Edward (afterwards King Edward I.) who 
brained the assassin who attempted the Prince's life, when his noble wife Eleanor risked 
hers to extract the poison from the wound. In Edward I.'s reign we have mention of a 
King Robert, who may be the impetuous minstrel of the Prince. Temp. Edward II., 
there occur two : a grant of houses was made to William de Morley, the King's Min- 
strel, which had been held by his predecessor, John de Boteler. At St. Bride's, Glamor- 
ganshire, is the insculpt effigy of a knightly figure, of the date of Edward I., with an 
inscription to John le Boteler ; but there is nothing to identify him with the king of the 
minstrels. Temp. Richard II., John Camuz was the king of his minstrels. "When 
Henry V. went to France, he took his fifteen minstrels, and Walter Haliday, their Mar- 
shal, with him. After this time the chief of the royal minstrels seems to have been st\ led 
Marshal instead of King ; and in the next reign but one we find a Sergeant of the Min- 
strels. Temp. Henry VI., "Walter Haliday was still Marshal of the Minstrels; 
and this king issued a commission for impressing boys to supply vacancies in their 
number. King Edward IV. granted to the said long-lived Walter Haliday, Mar- 
shal, and to seven others, a charter for the restoration of a Fraternity or Gild, to be 
governed by a marshal and two wardens, to regulate the minstrels throughout the realm 
(except those of Chester). The minstrels of the royal chapel establishment of this king 
were thirteen in number ; some trumpets, some shalms, some small pipes, and other? 
singers. The charter of Edward TV. was renewed by Henry VIII. in 1520, to Jonn 
Gilman, his then marshal, on whose death Hugh Wodehouse was promoted to the office, 


The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

when the band strikes up " Oh the Roast Beef of Old England," as that 
national dish is brought to table. 

We give here an illustration of such a scene from a very fine MS. of the 
early part of the fourteenth century, in the British Museum (marked Royal 2 
B vii., f. 184 v. and 185). A very fine representation of a similar scene occurs 
at the foot of the large Flemish Brass of Robert Braunche and his two wives 
in St. Margaret's Church, Lynn ; the scene is intended as a delineation of a 
feast given by the corporation of Lynn to King Edward III. Servants from 
both sides of the picture are bringing in that famous dish of chivalry, the 
peacock with his tail displayed ; and two bands of minstrels are ushering 

A Royal Dinner. 

in the banquet with their strains : the date of the brass is about 1364 a.d. 
In the fourteenth-century romance of " Richard Cceur de Lion," we read of 
some knights who have arrived in presence of the romance king whom they 
are in quest of; dinner is immediately prepared for them ; " trestles," says 
Ellis in his abstract of it, " were immediately set ; a table covered with a 
silken cloth was laid ; a rich repast, ushered in by the sound of trumpets 
and shalms, was served up."* 

Having introduced the feast, the minstrels continued to play during its 
progress. We find numerous representations of dinners in the illuminations, 
in which one or two minstrels are standing beside the table, playing their 
instruments during the progress of the meal. In a MS. volume of romances 

• Ellis's " Earl English Metrical Romances " (Bohn's edition), p. 287. 

Domestic Minstrels. 


of the early part of the fourteenth century in the British Museum (Royal 
14 E iii.), the title-page of the romance of the " Quete du St. Graal " 
(at folio 89 of the MS.) is adorned with an illumination of a royal banquet ; 
a squire on his knee (as in the illustration given on opposite page) is carving, 
and a minstrel stands beside the table playing the violin ; he is dressed in 
a parti-coloured tunic of red and blue, and wears his hat. In the Royal 
MS. 2 B vii., at folio 168, is a similar representation of a dinner, in which 
a minstrel stands playing the violin ; he is habited in a red tunic, and is 

Royal Dinner of the time of Edward IV. 

bareheaded. At folio 203 of the same MS. (Royal 2 B vii.), is another 
representation of a dinner, in which two minstrels are introduced \ one 
(wearing his hood) is playing a cittern, the other (bareheaded) is playing a 
violin : and these references might be multiplied. 

We reproduce here, in further illustration of the subject, engravings of 
a royal dinner of about the time of our Edward IV., " taken from an illu- 
mination of the romance of the Compte d'Artois, in the possession of 

The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

M. Barrois, a distinguished and well-known collector in Paris."* The 
other is an exceedingly interesting representation oi a grand imperial ban- 

lmperial Banquet. 

quet, from one of the plates of Hans Burgmair, in the volume dedicated 
to the exploits of the Emperor Maximilian, contemporary with our 

From Mr. T. Wright's " Domestic Manners of the English." 

Domestic Minstrels, 


Henry VIII. It represents the entrance of a masque, one of those 
strange entertainments, of which our ancestors, in the time of Henry and 
Elizabeth, were so fond, and of which Mr. C. Kean some years ago gave 
the play-going world of London so accurate a representation in his mise en 
scene of Henry VIII. at the Princess's Theatre. The band of minstrels 
who have been performing during the banquet, are seen in the left corner 
of the picture. 

So in " The Squiefs Tale " of Chaucer, where Cambuscan is " holding 
his feste so solempne and so riche." 

" It so befel, that after the thridde cours, 
While that this king sat thus in his nobley,* 
Harking his ministralles herf thinges play, 
Befome him at his bord deliciously," &c. 

The custom of having instrumental music as an accompaniment of dinner 


is still retained by her Majesty and by some of the greater nobility, by 
military messes, and at great public dinners. But the musical accompani- 
ment of a mediaeval dinner was not confined to instrumental performances. 
We frequently find a harper introduced, who is doubtless reciting some 
romance or history, or singing chansons of a lighter character. He is often 
represented as sitting upon the floor, as in the accompanying illustration, 
from the Royal MS., 2 B vii., folio 71b. Another similar representation 

• Among his nobles. 

t Their. 


The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

occurs at folio 203 b of the same MS. In the following very charming 
picture, from a MS. volume of romances of early fourteenth century date 
in the British Museum (Additional MS., 10,292, folio 200), the harper is 
sitting upon the table. 

Gower, in his " Confessio Amantis," gives us a description of a scene of 
the kind. Appolinus is dining in the hall of King Pentapolin, with the 
king and queen and their fair daughter, and all his " lordes in estate.' 
Appolinus was reminded by the scene of the royal estate from which he is 

Royal Harper. 

fallen, and sorrowed and took no meat; therefore the king bade hk 

daughter take her harp and do all that she can to enliven that " sorry 


"And she todou her fader's hest, 
Her harpe fette, and in the feste 
Upon a chaire which thei fette, 
Her selve next to this man she sette." 

Appolinus in turn takes the harp, and proves himself a wonderful pro 

ficient, and 

" When he hath harped all his fille, 
The kingis hest to fulfille, 
A waie goth dishe, a waie goth cup, 
Doun goth the borde, the cloth was up, 
Thei risen and gone out of the halle." 

Music and Dancing. 


In the sequel, the interesting stranger was made tutor to the princess, 
and among other teachings, 

" He taught hir till she was certeyne 
Of harpe, citole, and of riote, 
With many a tewne and many a note, 
Upon musike, upon measure, 
And of her harpe the temprure, 
He taught her eke, as he well couth." 

Another occasion on which their services would be required would be 
for the dance. Thus we read in the sequel of " The Squire's Tale," how 
the king and his " nobley," when dinner was ended, rose from table, and, 
preceded by the minstrels, went to the great chamber for the dance : — 

" Wan that this Tartar king, this Cambuscan, 
Rose from his bord ther as he sat ful hie ; 
Beforne him goth the loude" minstralcie, 
Til he come to his chambre of parements,* 
rheras they sounden divers instruments, 
That it is like an Heaven for to here. 
Now dauncen lusty Venus children dere," &c. 

In the tale of Dido and ^Eneas, in the legend of " Good Women," he 
calls it especially the dancing chamber : — 

Mediaeval Dance. 

" To dauncing chambers full of paraments, 
Of riche bedes t and of pavements, 
This Eneas is ledde after the meat." 

• Great chamber, answering to our modem drawing-room. t Couches. 


The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

But the dance was not always in the great chamber. Very commonly it 
took place in the hall. The tables were only movable boards laid upon 
trestles, and at the signal from the master of the house, " A hall ! a hall ! " 
they were quickly put aside ; while the minstrels tuned their instruments 
anew, and the merry folly at once commenced. In the illustration, of 
early fourteenth-century date, which we give on the preceding page, from 
folio 174 of the Royal MS., 2 B vii., the scene of the dance is not indi- 
cated ; the minstrels themselves appear to be joining in the saltitation 
which they inspire. 

In the next illustration, reproduced from Mr. Wright's " Domestic 

A Dance in the Gallery. 

Manners of the English," we have a curious picture of a dance, possibly 
in the gallery, which occupied the whole length of the roof of most fif- 
teenth-century houses; it is from M. Barrois's MS. of the "Compte 
D'Artois," of fifteenth-century date. In all these instances the minstrels 
are on the floor with the dancers, but in the latter part of the Middle 
Ages they were probably — especially on festal occasions — placed in the- 
music gallery over the screens, or entrance-passage, of the hall. 

Marriage processions were, beyond doubt, attended by minstrels. An 
illustration of a band consisting of tabor, bagpipes, regal, and violin, head- 

Wedding Music. 


ing a marriage procession, may be seen in the Roman d' Alexandre (Bod- 
leian Library) at folio 173 : and at folios 173 and 174 the wedding feast is 
enlivened by a more numerous band of harp, gittern, violin, regal, tabor, 
bagpipes, hand-bells, cymbals, and kettle-drums — which are carried on a 
boy's back.* 

* For other illustrations of musical instruments see a good representation of Venus 
playing a rote, with a plectrum in the right hand, pressing the strings with the left, in 
the Sloane MS. 3,985, f. 44 v. Also a band, consisting of violin, organistrum (like the 
modem hurdy-gurdy), harp, and dulcimer, in the Harl. MS. 1,527 ; it represents the 
feast on the return of the prodigal son. In the Arundel MS. 83, f. 155, is David with a 
band of instruments of early fourteenth-century date, and other instruments at f. 630. 
In the early fourteenth-century MS. 28,162, at f. 6 v., David is tuning his harp with a 
key ; at f. 10 v. is Dives faring sumptuously, with carver and cup-beare»", and musicians 
with lute and pipe. 



^v?VVERY nobleman and 
gentleman in the 
Middle Ages, we 
have seen, had one 
or more minstrels 
as part of his 
household, and 
among their other 
duties they were 
required to assist 
at the celebration 
of divine wor- 
ship. Allusions 
occur perpetually 
in the old ro- 
mances, showing that it was the universal custom to hear mass before 
dinner, and even-song before supper, e.g. : " And so they went home and 
unarmed them, and so to even-song and supper. . . . And on the 
morrow they heard mass, and after went to dinner, and to their counsel, 
and made many arguments what were best to do."* " The Young Chil- 
dren's Book," a kind of mediaeval " Chesterfield's Letters to his Son," pub- 

Mallory's "History of Prince Arthur," vol. i. p. 44. 

Divine Service. 285 

lished by the Early English Text Society, from a MS. of about 1500 A.D., 
in the Bodleian Library, bids its pupils — 

u Aryse be tyme oute of thi bedde, 
And blysse * thi brest and thi forhede, 
Then wasche thi handes and thi face, 
Keme thi hede and ask God grace 
The to helpe in all thi workes ; 
Thou schalt spede better what so thou carpes. 
Then go to the chyrche and here a masse, 
There aske mersy for thi trespasse. 
When thou hast done go breke thy faste 
With mete and drynk a gode repast." 

In great houses the service was performed by the chaplain in the chapel 
of the hall or casde, and it seems probable that the lord's minstrels 
assisted in the musical part of the service. 

The organ doubtless continued to be, as we have seen it in Saxon times, 
the most usual church instrument. Thus the King of Hungary in "The 
Squire of Low Degree," tells his daughter : — 

•' Then shal ye go to your even song, 
With tenours and trebles among ; 
• • * « 

Your quere nor organ song shal want 
With countre note and dyscant ; 
The other half on organs playing, 
With young children ful fayn synging." 

And in inventories of church furniture in the Middle Ages we find organs 
enumerated : t Not only the organ, but all instruments in common 
use, were probably also used in the celebration of divine worship. We 
meet with repeated instances in which David singing the psalms is accom- 
panied by a band of musicians, as in the Saxon illumination on p. 272, 
and again in the initial letter of this chapter, which is taken from a psalter 

• Viz., by making the sign of the cross upon them. 

t Edward VI.' s commissioners return a pair of organs in the church of St Peter Man- 
croft, Norwich, which they value at 40?., and in the church of St. Peter, Parrnentergate, 
in the same city, a pair of organs which they value at^io (which would be equal to 
about £~o or ^"80 in these days), and soon after we find that 8d. were " paied to a car- 
penter for makyng of a plaunche (a platform of planks) to sette the organs on." 

286 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

of early thirteenth-century date in the British Museum (Harl. 5,102). The 
men of those days were in some respects much more real and practical, 
less sentimental and transcendental, than we in religious matters. We 
must have everything relating to divine worship of different form and 
fashion from ordinary domestic appliances, and think it irreverent to use 
things of ordinary domestic fashion for religious uses, or to have domestic 
things in the shapes of what we call religious art. They had only one 
art, the best they knew, for all purposes ; and they were content to 
apply the best of that to the service of God. Thus to their minds it 
would not appear at all unseemly that the minstrels who had accom- 
panied the divine service in chapel should walk straight out of chapel 
into the hall, and tune their instruments anew to play symphonies, or 
accompany chansons during dinner, or enliven the dance in the great 
chamber in the evening — no more unseemly than that their master and 
his family should dine and dance as well as pray. The chapel royal esta- 
blishment of Edward IV. consisted of trumpets, shalms, and pipes, as well 
as voices ; and we may be quite sure that the custom of the royal chapel 
was imitated by noblemen and gentlemen of estate. A good fifteenth- 
century picture of the interior of a church, showing the organ in a gallery, 
is engraved in the " Annales Archseologiques," vol. xii., p. 349. A very 
good representation of an organ of the latter part of the sixteenth century 
(1582) is in the fine MS. Plut. 3,469, folio 27.* An organ of about this 
date is still preserved in that most interesting old Manor House, Igtham 
Mote, in Kent. They were sometimes placed at the side of the chancel, 
sometimes in the rood-loft, which occupied the same relative position in 
the choir which the music gallery did in the hall. 

In the MSS. we not unfrequently find the ordinary musical instruments 
placed in the hands of the angels ; e.g., in the early fourteenth-century MS. 
Royal 2 B. vii., in a representation of the creation, with the morning stars 
singing together, and all the sons of God shouting for joy, an angelic choir 
are making melody on the trumpet, violin, cittern, shalm (or psaltery), and 
harp. There is another choir of angels at p. 168 of the same MS., two 

* Another, with kettle-drums and trumpets, in the MS. Add. 27,675, f. 13. 

Angel Minstrels. 


citterns and two shalms, a violin and trumpet. Similar representations 
occur very significantly in churches. On the arch of the Porta Delia 
Gloria of Saragossa Cathedral, of the eleventh century, from which there is 
a cast at the entrance to the South Kensington Museum, are a set of angel 
minstrels with musical instruments. In the bosses of the ceiling of Tewkes- 
bury Abbey Church we find angels playing the cittern (with a plectrum), 
the harp (with its cover seen enveloping the lower half of the instrument) * 

The Morning Stars singing together. 

and the cymbals. A set of angel musicians is sculptured on the rood loft 
of York Minster. In the triforum of the nave of Exeter Cathedral is a pro- 
jecting gallery for the minstrels, with sculptures of them on the front play- 
ing instruments.! In the choir of Lincoln Cathedral, some of the noble 
series of angels which fill the spandrels of its arcades, and which have 
given to it the name of the Angel Choir, are playing instruments, viz., 
the trumpet, double pipe, pipe and tabret, dulcimer, viol and harp. They 
represent the heavenly choir attuning their praises in harmony with 
the human choir below : " Therefore with angels and archangels, and 
with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name." 
There is a band of musicians sculptured on the grand portal of the 
Cathedral at Rheims ; a sculptured capital from the church of St. Georges 

* A harp with its case about the lower part is in the Add. MS. 18,854, *• 9 1 * 
t There are casts of these in the Mediaeval Court of the Crystal Palace, 

The Minstrets of the Middle Ages. 

de Bocherville, now in the Museum at Rouen, represents eleven crowned 
figures playing different instruments.* On the chasse of 
St. Ursula at Bruges are angels playing instruments beau- 
tifully painted by Hemling.t We cannot resist the temp- 
tation to introduce here another charming little drawing 
of an angelic minstrel, playing a psaltery, from the Royal 
MS. 14 E iii. - others occur at folio 1 of the saint. MS. 
The band of village musicians with flute, violin, clarinet, ki 
and bass-viol, whom most of us have seen occupying the 
singing-gallery of some country church, are the representa- 
tives of the band of minstrels who occupied the rood-lofts 
in mediaeval times. 

Clerical censors of manners during the Middle Ages 
frequently denounce the dissoluteness of minstrels, and 
the minstrels take their revenge by lampooning the vices 
of the clergy. Like all sweeping censures of whole classes 
of men, the accusations on both sides must be received 
cautiously. However, it is certain that the minstrels were 
patronised by the clergy. We shall presently find a record 
of the minstrels of the Bishop of Winchester in the four- 
teenth century ; and the Ordinance of Edward II., quoted 
at p. 296, tells us that minstrels flocked to the houses of prelates as well 
as of nobles and gentlemen. In the thirteenth century, that fine sample 
of an English bishop, Grostete of Lincoln, was a great patron of minstrel 
science : he himself composed an allegorical romance, the Chasteau 
d' Amour. Robert de Brunne, in his English paraphrase of Grostete's 
Manuel de Peches (begun in 1303), gives us a charming anecdote of 
the Bishop's love of minstrelsy. 

" Y shall yow telle as y have herde, 
Of the bysshope seynt Roberde, 
Hys to-name ys Grostet. 
Of Lynkolne, so seyth the gest 

An Angel 

* " Annales Archseologiques," vol. vi. p. 315. 

f Ibid., vol. ix. p. 329. 

Bishops' Minstrels. 289 

He loved moche to here the harpe, 

For mannys witte hyt makyth sharpe. 

Next hys chaumber, besyde his stody, 

Hys harpers chaumbre was fast theiby. 

Many tymes be nyght and dayys, 

He had solace of notes and layys. 

One askede hym onys restin why 

He hadde delyte in mynstralsy ? 

He answered hym on thys manere 

Why he helde the harper so dere. 

The vertu of the harpe, thurghe skylle and ryght, 

Wyl destroy the fendes myght ; 

And to the croys by gode skylle 

Ys the harpe lykened weyle. 

Tharfor gode men, ye shul lere 

Whan ye any gleman here, 

To wurschep Gode al youre powere, 

As Dauyde seyth yn the santere." 

We know that the abbots lived in many respects as other great 
people did ; they exercised hospitality to guests of gentle birth in their 
own halls, treated them to the diversions of hunting and hawking over 
their manors and in their forests, and did not scruple themselves to 
partake in those amusements ; possibly they may have retained minstrels 
wherewith to solace their guests and themselves. It is quite certain at 
least that the wandering minstrels were welcome guests at the religious 
houses ; and Warton records many instances of the rewards given to them 
on those occasions. We may record two or three examples. 

The monasteries had great annual feasts, on the ecclesiastical festiva s, 
and often also in commemoration of some saint or founder ; there was a 
grand service in church, and a grand dinner afterwards in the refectory. 
The convent of St. Swithin, in Winchester, used thus to keep the anniver- 
sary of Alwyne the Bishop ; and in the year a.d. 1374 we find that six min- 
strels, accompanied by four harpers, performed their minstrelsies at dinner, 
in the hall of the convent, and during supper sang the same gest in the 
great arched chamber of the prior, on which occasion the chamber was 
adorned, according to custom on great occasions, with the prior's great 

2 go The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

dorsal (a hanging for the wall behind the table), having on it a picture of 
the three kings of Cologne. These minstrels and harpers belonged partly 
to the Royal household in Winchester Castle, partly to the Bishop of Win- 
chester. Similarly at the priory of Bicester, in Oxfordshire, in the year 
a.d. 1432, the treasurer of the monastery gave four shillings to six minstrels 
from Buckingham, for singing in the refectory, on the Feast of the 
Epiphany, a legend of the Seven Sleepers. In a.d. 1430 the brethren of the 
Holie Crosse at Abingdon celebrated their annual feast ; twelve priests 
were hired for the occasion to help to sing the dirge with becoming 
solemnity, for which they received four pence each ; and twelve minstrels, 
some of whom came from the neighbouring town of Maidenhead, were 
rewarded with two shillings and four pence each, besides their share of the 
feast and food for their horses. At Mantoke Priory, near Coventry, there 
was a yearly obit ; and in the year a.d. 1441, we find that eight priests were 
hired from Coventry to assist in the service, and the six minstrels of their 
neighbour, Lord Clinton, of Mantoke Castle, were engaged to sing, harp, 
and play, in the hall of the monastery, at the grand refection allowed to the 
monks on the occasion of that anniversary. The minstrels amused the 
monks and their guests during dinner, and then dined themselves in the 
painted chamber {camera pictd) of the monastery with the sub-prior, on 
which occasion the chamberlain furnished eight massy tapers of wax to 
light their table. 

These are instances of minstrels formally invited by abbots and convents 
to take part in certain great festivities ; but there are proofs that the wan- 
dering minstrel, who, like all other classes of society, would find hospi- 
tality in the guest-house of the monastery, was also welcomed for his 
minstrel skill, and rewarded for it with guerdon of money, besides his 
food and lodging. Warton gives instances of entries in monastic accounts 
for disbursements on such occasions ; and there is an anecdote quoted by 
Percy of some dissolute monks who one evening admitted two poor priests 
whom they took to be minstrels, and ill-treated and turned them out again 
when they were disappointed of their anticipated gratification. 

On the next page is a curious illumination from the Royal MS. 2 B vii. f 
representing a friar and a nun themselves making minstrelsy. 

Military Music. 


At tournaments the scene was enlivened by the strains of minstrels, 
and horses and men inspirited to the charge by the loud fanfare of their 

And again : — 

Nun and Friar with Musical Instruments. 

instruments. Thus in " The Knight's Tale," at the tournament of Palamon 
and Arcite, as the king and his company rode to the lists : — 

" Up gon the trumpets and the melodie, 
And to the listes ride the companie." 

" Then were the gates shut, and cried was loude 
Now do your devoir younge knightes proud. 
The heralds left their pricking up and down, 
Now ringen trumpets loud and clarioun. 
There is no more to say, but East and "West 
In go the speares sadly in the rest ; 
In goeth the sharpe spur into the side ; 
There see men who can just and who can ride. 
Men shiveren shaftfe upon shieldes thick, 
He feeleth thro the hearte-spoon the prick." 

In actual war only the trumpet and horn and tabor seem to have been 

used. In " The Romance of Merlin " we read of 

" Tram pes beting, tambours classing " 

in the midst of a battle ; and again, in Chaucer's " Knight's Tale " — 

"Pipes, trumpets, nakeres,* and clariouns 
That in the battle blowen bloody sounds ;" 

• Kettle-drams. 

292 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

and again, on another occasion — 

" The trumping and the tabouring, 
Did together the knights fling." 

There are several instances in the Royal MS., 2 B vii., in which 
trumpeters are sounding their instruments in the rear of a company of 
charging chevaliers. 

Again, when a country knight and his neighbour wished to keep 
their spears in practice against the next tournament, or when a couple 
of errant knights happened to meet at a manor-house, the lists were 
rudely staked out in the base-court of the castle, or in the meadow 
under the castle-walls ; and, while the ladies looked on and waved 
their scarfs from the windows or the battlements, and the vassals flocked 
round the ropes, the minstrels gave animation to the scene. In the illus- 
tration on p. 414 from the title-page of the Royal MS., 14 E iii., a fine 
volume of romances of early fourteenth-century date, we are made spec- 
tators of a scene of the kind ; the herald is arranging the preliminaries 
between the two knights who are about to joust, while a band of minstrels 
inspire them with their strains. 

Not only at these stated periods, but at all times, the minstrels were 
liable to be called upon to enliven the tedium of their lord or lady with 
music and song j the King of Hungary (in " The Squire of Low Degree "), 
trying to comfort his daughter for the loss of her lowly lover by the 
promise of all kinds of pleasures, says that in the morning — 

" Ye shall have harpe, sautry, and songe, 
And other myrthes you among." 

And again a little further on, after dinner — 

" When you come home your menie amorge, 
Ye shall have revell, daunces, and songe ; 
Lytle children, great and smale, 
Shall syng as doth the nightingale." 

And yet again, when she is gone to bed — 

'* And yf ye no rest can take, 
All night mynstrels for you shall wake." 

Errant Minstrels, 293 

Doubtless many of the long winter evenings, when the whole househoid 
was assembled round the blazing wood fire in the middle of the hall, would 
be passed in listening to those interminable tales of chivalry which my 
lord's chief harper would chant to his harp, while his fellows would play a 
symphony between the " fyttes." Of other occasions on which the min- 
strels would have appropriate services to render, an entry in the House- 
hold Book of the Percy family in a.d. 15 12 gives us an indication : There 
were three of them at their castle in the north, a tabret, a lute, and a 
rebec ; and we find that they had a new-year's gift, " xxs. for playing at my 
lordes chamber doure on new yeares day in the momynge ; and for play- 
inng at my lordes sone and heire's chamber doure, the lord Percy, iir. ; 
and tor playing at the chamber dours of my lord's yonger sonnes, my 
yonge masters, after viii. the piece for every of them." 

But besides the official minstrels of kings, nobles, and gentlemen, 
bishops, and abbots, and corporate towns, there were a great number of 
" minstrels unattached," and of various grades of society, who roamed 
abroad singly or in company, from town to town, from court to camp, from 
castle to monastery, flocking in great numbers to tournaments and festivals 
and fairs, and welcomed everywhere. 

The summer-time was especially the season for the wanderings of these 
children of song,* as it was of the knight-errant f and of the pilgrim J also. 
Xo wonder that the works of the minstrels abound as they do with charming 
outbursts of song on the return of the spring and summer, and the delights 
which they bring. All winter long the minstrel had lain in some town, 
chafing at its miry and unsavoury streets, and its churlish, money-getting 
citizens ; or in some hospitable castle or manor-house, perhaps, listening 
to the wind roaring through the broad forests, and howling among the 

* In the account of the minstrel at Kenilworth, subsequently given, he is described as 
1 a squiere minstrel of Middlesex, that travelled the country this summer time." 
t " Miri it is in somer's tide 
Swaines gin on justing ride." 
J " Whanne that April with his shoures sote," &c 
" Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages." 

294 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

turrets overhead, until he pined for freedom and green fields ; his host, 

perchance, grown tired of his ditties, and his only occupation to con new 

ones ; this, from the " Percy Reliques," sounds like a verse composed at 

such a time : — 

u In time of winter alange* it is I 
The foules lesenf her bliss ! 
The leves fallen off the tree ; 
Rain alangeth % the countree." 

No wonder they welcomed the return of the bright, warm days, when they 
could resume their gay, adventurous, open-air life, in the fresh, flowery 
meadows, and the wide, green forest glades ; roaming to town and village, 
castle and monastery, feast and tournament ; alone, or in company with a 
band of brother minstrels ; meeting by the way with gay knights adven- 
turous, or pilgrims not less gay — if they were like those of Chaucer's 
company; welcomed everywhere by priest and abbot, lord and loon. 
These are the sort of strains which they carolled as they rested under the 
white hawthorn, and carelessly tinkled an accompaniment on their harps : — 

' Merry is th' ente of May ; 
The fowles maketh merry play ; 
The time is hot, and long the day. 
The joyful nightingale singeth, 
In the grene mede flowers springeth. 
* * ♦ » 

" Merry it is in somer's tide ; 
Fowles sing in forest wide ; 
Swaines gin on justing ride, 
Maidens liffen hem in pride." 

The minstrels were often men of position and wealth. Rayer, or 
Raherus, the first of the king's minstrels whom we meet with after the 
Conquest, founded the Priory and Hospital of St. Bartholomew, in 
Smithfield, London, in the third year of Henry I., a.d. 1102, and became 
the first prior of his own foundation. He was not the only minstrel who 
turned religious. Foulquet de Marseille, first a merchant, then a minstrel 
of note — some of his songs have descended to these days — at length turned 
monk, and was made abbot of Tournet, and at length Archbishop of 

• Tedious, irksome. t Lose their. % Renders tedious. 

Errant Minstrels. 295 

Toulouse, and is known in history as the persecutor of the Albigenses : he 
died in 1 23 1 a.d. It seems to have been no unusual thing for men of family 
to take up the wandering, adventurous life of the minstrel, much as others 
of the same class took up the part of knight adventurous ; they frequently 
travelled on horseback, with a servant to carry their harp ; flocking to 
courts and tournaments, where the graceful and accomplished singer of 
chivalrous deeds was perhaps more caressed than the large-limbed warrior 
who achieved them ; and obtained large rewards, instead of huge blows, for 
his guerdon. 

There are some curious anecdotes showing the kind of people who 
became minstrels, their wandering habits, their facility of access to all 
companies and places, and the uses which were sometimes made of their pri- 
vileges. All our readers will remember how Blondel de Nesle, the minstrel 
of Richard Cceur de Lion, wandered over Europe in search of his master. 
There is a less known instance of a similar kind and of the same period. 
Ela, the heiress of D'Evereux, Earl of Salisbury, had been carried abroad 
and secreted by her French relations in Normandy. To discover the 
place of her concealment, a knight of the Talbot family spent two years in 
exploring that province; at first under the disguise of a pilgrim; then, having 
found where she was confined, in order to gain admittance, he assumed 
the dress and character of a harper ; and being a jocose person, exceed- 
ingly skilled in the Gests of the ancients, he was gladly received into the 
family. He succeeded in carrying off the lady, whom he restored to her 
liege lord the king, who bestowed her in marriage, not upon the adven- 
turous knight-minstrel, as ought to have been the ending of so pretty a 
novelet, but upon his own natural brother, William Longespe'e, to whom 
she brought her earldom of Salisbury in dower. 

Many similar instances, not less valuable evidences of the manners of 
the times because they are fiction, might be selected from the romances of 
the Middle Ages ; proving that it was not unusual for men of birth and 
station* to assume, for a longer or shorter time, the character and life of 
the wandering minstrel. 

* Fontenelle ("Histoire du Theatre," quoted by Percy) tells us that in France, men, 
who by the division of the family property had only the half or the fourth part of an old 

296 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

But besides these gentle minstrels, there were a multitude of others of 
the lower classes of society, professors of the joyous science ; descending 
through all grades of musical skill, and of respectability of character. We 
find regulations from time to time intended to check their irregularities. In 
13 1 5 King Edward II. issued an ordinance addressed to sheriffs, &c, as fol- 
lows : " Forasmuch as . . . . many idle persons under colour of mynstrelsie, 
and going in messages* and other faigned busines, have been and yet be 
receaved in other men's houses to meate and drynke, and be not therwith 
contented yf they be not largely considered with gyftes of the Lordes of 
the Houses, &c We wyllyng to restrayne such outrageous enter- 
prises and idlenes, &c, have ordeyned that to the houses of 

Prelates, Earls, and Barons, none resort to meate and drynke unless he be 
a mynstrell, and of these mynstrels that there come none except it be three 
or four mynstrels of honour at most in one day unless he be desired of the 
Lorde of the House. And to the houses of meaner men, that none come 
unlesse he be desired ; and that such as shall come so holde themselves 
contented with meate and drynke, and with such curtesie as the Master of 
the House wyl shewe unto them of his owne good wyll, without their 
askyng of any thyng. And yf any one do against this ordinaunce at the 
first tyme he to lose his minstrelsie, and at the second tyme to forsweare 
his craft, and never to be received for a minstrell in any house." This 
curious ordinance gives additional proof of several facts which we have 
before noted, viz., that minstrels were well received everywhere, and had 
even become exacting in their expectations ; that they used to wander 
about in bands ; and the penalties seem to indicate that the minstrels were 
already incorporated in a guild. The first positive evidence of such a 

seignorial castle, sometimes went rhyming about the world, and returned to acquire 
the remainder of their ancestral castle. 

* In the MS. illuminations of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the messenger 
is denoted by peculiarities of equipment. He generally bears a spear, and has a very 
small, round target (or, perhaps, a badge of his lord's arms) at his girdle — e.g., in the 
MS. Add. 11,639 of the close of the thirteenth century, folio 203 v. In the fifteenth 
century we see messengers carrying letters openly, fastened in the cleft of a split wand, 
in the MS. of about the same date, Harl. 1,527, folio 1,080, and in the fourteenth 
century MS. Add. 10,293, folio is ; and in Hans Burgmaier's Der Weise Konige. 

Organization of Minstrels. 297 

ild is in the charter (already alluded to) of 9th King Edward IV, 
a.d. 1469, in which he grants to Walter Haliday, Marshall, and seven 
others, his own minstrels, a charter by which he restores a Fraternity 
or perpetual Guild (such as he understands the brothers and sisters of 
the Fraternity of Minstrels had in times past), to be governed by a mar- 
shall, appointed for life, and by two wardens, to be chosen annually, 
who are empowered to admit brothers and sisters into the guild, and 
are authorised to examine the pretensions of all such as affect to exercise 
the minstrel profession ; and to regulate, govern, and punish them through- 
out the realm — those of Chester excepted. It seems probable that the 
King's Minstrel, or the King of the Minstrels, had long previously pos- 
sessed an authority of this kind over all the members of the profession, and 
that the organization very much resembled that of the heralds. The two 
are mentioned together in the Statute of Arms for Tournaments, passed in 
the reign of Edward I., a.d. 1295. "E qe nul Roy de Harraunz ne 
Menestrals* portent privez armez :" that no King of the Heralds or of the 
Minstrels shall carry secret weapons. That the minstrels attended all 
tournaments we have already mentioned. The heralds and minstrels are 
often coupled in the same sentence; thus Froissart tells us that at a 
Christmas entertainment given by the Earl of Foix, there were many 
minstrels, as well his own as strangers, " and the Earl gave to Heraulds 
and Minstrelles the sum of fyve hundred frankes ; and gave to the Duke 
of Tourayne's mynstreles gowns of cloth of gold furred with ermine, valued 
at 200 frankes." \ 

* It is right to state that one MS. of this statute gives Mareschans instead of Menes- 
trals ; but the reading in the text is that preferred by the Record Commission, who have 
published the whole of the interesting document. 

t In the romance of Richard Cceur de Lion we read that, after the capture of Acre, 
he distributed among the " heralds, disours, tabourers, and trompours," who accompanied 
him, the greater part of the money, jewels, horses, and fine robes which had fallen to his 
share. "We have many accounts o the lavish generosity with which chivalrous lords 
propitiated the favourable report of the heralds and minstrels, whose good report was 



T is not unlikely that the principal minstrel of every great noble 
exercised some kind of authority over all minstrels within his 
lord's jurisdiction. There are several famous instances of some- 
thing of this kind on record. The earliest is that of the authority granted 
by Ranulph, Earl of Chester, to the Duttons over all minstrels of his 
jurisdiction ; for the romantic origin of the grant the curious reader may 
see the Introductory Essay to Percy's " Reliques," or the original autho- 
rities in Dugdale's " Monasticon," and D. Powel's " History of Cambria." 

The Beverley Minstrels. 

The ceremonies attending the exercise of this authority are thus described 
by Dugdale, as handed down to his time : — viz., " That at Midsummer 
fair there, all the minstrels of that countrey resorting to Chester, do attend 
the heir of Dutton from his lodging to St. John's Church (he being then 

The Great Guilds. 299 

accompanied by many gentlemen of the countrey), one of the minstrels 
walking before him in a surcoat of his arms, depicted on taffeta ; the rest 
of his fellows proceeding two and two, and playing on their several sorts 
of musical instruments. And after divine service ended, gave the like 
attendance on him back to his lodging ; where a court being kept by his 
(Mr. Dutton's) steward, and all the minstrels formally called, certain orders 
and laws are usually made for the better government of that society, with 
penalties on those that transgress." This court, we have seen, was 
exempted from the jurisdiction of the King of the Minstrels by Edward IV., 
as it was also from the operation of all Acts of Parliament on the subject 
down to so late a period as the seventeenth year of George II., the last 
of them. In the fourth year of King Richard II., John* of Gaunt created 
a court of minstrels at Tutbury, in Staffordshire, similar to that at Chester ; 
in the charter (which is quoted in Dr. Plotfs " History of Staffordshire," 
p. 436) he gives them a King of the Minstrels and four officers, with a 
legal authority over the men of their craft in the five adjoining counties of 
Stafford, Derby, Notts, Leicester, and Warwick. The form of election, as 
it existed at a comparatively late period, is fully detailed by Dr. Plott. 

Another of these guilds was the ancient company or fraternity of min- 
strels in Beverley, of which an account is given in Poulson's " Beverlac " 
(p. 302). When the fraternity originated we do not know ; but they were 
of some consideration and wealth in the reign of Henry VI., when the 
Church of St Mary's, Beverley, was built ; for they gave a pillar to it, on 
the capital of which a band of minstrels are sculptured, of whom we here 
re-produce a drawing from Carter's " Ancient Painting and Sculpture," to 
which we shall have presently to ask the reader's further attention. The 
oldest existing document of the fraternity is a copy of laws of the time of 
Philip and Mary. They are similar to those by which all trade guilds 
were governed : their officers were an alderman and two stewards or sears 

* May we infer from the exemption of the jurisdiction of the Duttons, and not of 
that of the court of Tutbury and the guild of Beverley, that the jurisdiction of the King 
of the Minstrels over the whole realm was established after the former, and before the 
latter ? The French minstrels were incorporated by charter, and had a king in the year 
1330, forty-seven years before Tutbury. In the ordonnance of Edward II., 1315, there is 
no allusion to such a general jurisdiction. 

300 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

(i.e. seers, searchers) ; the only items in their laws which throw much 
additional light upon our subject are the one already partly quoted, that 
they should not take " any new brother except he be mynstrell to some 
man of honour or worship (proving that men of honour and worship still 
had minstrels), or waite * of some towne corporate or other ancient town, 
or else of such honestye and conyng as shall be thought laudable and 
pleasant to the hearers there." And again, " no myler, shepherd, or of 

Goatherds playing Musical Instruments. 

other occupation, or husbandman, or husbandman servant, playing upon 
pype or other instrument, shall sue any wedding, or other thing that 
pertaineth to the said science, except in his own parish." We may here 

* One of the minstrels of King Edward the Fourth's household (there were thirteen 
others) was called the wayte ; it was his duty to " pipe watch." In the romance of 
" Richard Cceur de Lion," when Richard, with his fleet, has come silently in the night 
under the walls of Jaffa, which was besieged on the land side by the Saracen army :-- 
" They looked up to the castel, 
They heard no pipe, ne flagel, 1 
They drew em nigh to land, 
If they mighten understand, 
And they could ne nought espie, 
Ne by no voice of minstralcie, 
That quick man in the castle were." 
And so they continued in uncertainty until the spring of the day, then 
" A wait there came, in a kernel, 2 
And piped a nott in a flagel." 
And when he recognised King Richard's galleys, 

" Then a merrier note he blew, 
And piped, • Seigneurs or sus 1 or sos ! 
King Richard is comen to us ! '" 
' Flageolet. * Battlement. 

Shepherds' Pipes. 


digress for a moment to say that the shepherds, throughout the Middle 
Ages, seem to have been as musical as the swains of Theocritus or Virgil ; 
in the MS. illuminations we constantly find them represented playing upon 
instruments ; we give a couple of goatherds from the MS. Royal 2 B vii. 
folio 83, of early fourteenth-century date. 

Besides the pipe and horn, the bagpipe was 
also a rustic instrument. There is a shepherd play- 
ing upon one in folio 1 1 2 of the same MS. ; and 
again, in the early fourteenth-century MS. Royal 
2 B vi., on the reverse of folio 8, is a group of 
shepherds, one of whom plays a small pipe, and 
another the bagpipes. Chaucer (3rd Book of 
the " House of Fame ") mentions — 

" Pipes made of greene come, 
As have these little herd gromes, 
That keepen beastes in the bromes." 

Shepherd with Bagpipes. 

It is curious to find that even at so late a period as the time of Queen Mary, 
the shepherds still officiated at weddings and other merrymakings in theii 
villages, so as to excite the jealousy of the professors of the joyous science. 

Rustic Merry-making. 
The accompanying wood-cut, from a MS. in the French National 
library, may represent such a rustic merry-making 

302 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

One might, perhaps, have been disposed to think that the good minstrels 
of Beverley were only endeavouring to revive usages which had fallen into 
desuetude ; but we find that in the time of Elizabeth the profession of 
minstrelsy was sufficiently universal to call for the inquiry, in the Injunctions 
of 1559, "Whether any minstrells, or any other persons, do use to sing 
any songs or ditties that be vile or unclean." 

Ben Jonson gives us numerous allusions to them : e.g., in the " Tale of 
a Tub," old Turve talks of " old Father Rosin, the chief minstrel here — 
chief minstrel, too, of Highgate ; she has hired him, and all his two boys, 
for a day and a half." They were to be dressed in bays, rosemary, and 
ribands, to precede the bridal party across the fields to church and back, 
and to play at dinner. And so in " Epiccene," act iii. sc. 1 : — 

" Well, there be guests to meat now ; how shall we do for music ? " [for Morose's 

Clerimont. — The smell of the venison going thro' the street will invite one noise of 
fiddlers or other. 

Dauphine. — I would it would call the trumpeters hither ! 

Clerimont. — Faith, there is hope : they have intelligence of all feasts. There's a good 
correspondence betwixt them and the London cooks : 'tis twenty to one but we have 

And Dryden, so late as the time of William III., speaks of them — 

" These fellows 
Were once the minstrels of a country show, 
Followed the prizes through each paltry town, 
By trumpet cheeks and bloated faces known." 

There were also female minstrels throughout the Middle Ages ; but, as 
might be anticipated from their irregular wandering life, they bore an 
indifferent reputation. The romance of " Richard Cceur de Lion " says 
that it was a female minstrel, and, still worse, an Englishwoman, who re- 
cognised and betrayed the knight-errant king and his companions, on their 
return from the Holy Land, to his enemy, the " King of Almain." The 
passage is worth quoting, as it illustrates several of the traits of minstrel 
habits which we have already recorded. After Richard and his com- 
panions had dined on a goose, which they cooked for themselves at a 
tavern — 

Female Minstrels. 


" When they had drunken well afin, 
A minstralle com therin, 
A^id said ' Gentlemen, wittily, 
Will ye have any minstrelsey ? ' 
Richard bade that she should go. 
That turned him to mickle woe ! 
The minstralle took in mind,* 
And saith, ■ Ye are men unkind ; 
And if I may, ye shall for-think f 
Ye gave neither meat nor drink. 
For gentlemen should bede J 
To minstrels that abouten yede § 
Of their meat, wine, and ale ; 
For los || rises of minstrale.' 
She was English, and well true 
By speech, and sight, and hide, and hue. 


Stow tells that in 13 16, while Edward II. was solemnizing his Feast 
of Pentecost in his hall at Westminster, sitting royally at table, with his 
peers about him, there entered a woman adorned like a minstrel, sitting on 
a great horse, trapped as minstrels then used, who rode round about the 
tables showing her pastime. The reader will remember the use which Sir 
E. B. Lytton has made of a troop of tymbesteres 
in "The Last of the Barons," bringing them in 
at the epochs of his tale with all the dramatic 
effect of the Greek chorus : the description which he 
gives of their habits is too sadly truthful. The 
daughter of Herodias dancing before Herod is scorn- 
fully represented by the mediaeval artists as a female 
minstrel performing the tumbling tricks which were 
part of their craft. We give a representation of a 
female minstrel playing the tambourine from the MS. 
Royal, 2 B vii. folio 182. 

A question of considerable interest to artists, no 
less than to antiquaries, is whether the minstrels were or not distinguished 

Female Minstrel. 

• Was offended. 


% Give. 

§ Travel. 

U Praise 

304 The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

by any peculiar costume or habit. Bishop Percy* and his followers say that 
they were, and the assertion is grounded on the following evidences : 
Baldulph, the Saxon, in the anecdote already related, when assuming the 
disguise of a minstrel, is described as shaving his head and beard, and 
dressing himself in the habit of that profession. Alfred and Aulaff were 
known at once to be minstrels. The two poor priests who were turned out 
of the monastery by the dissolute monks were at first mistaken for 
minstrels. The woman who entered Westminster Hall at King Edward 
the Second's Pentecost feast was adorned like a minstrel, sitting on a great 
horse, trapped as minstrels then used. 

The Knight of La Tour-Landry (chap, xvii.) tells a story which shows 
that the costume of minstrels was often conspicuous for richness and 
fashion : " As y have herde telle, Sir Pi ere de Luge was atte the feste where 
as were gret foyson of lordes, ladies, knightes, and squieres, and gentil- 
women, and so there came in a yonge squier before hem that was sette atte 
dyner and salued the companie, and he was clothed in a cote-hardy f 
upon the guyse of Almayne, and in this wise he come further before the 
lordes and ladies, and made hem goodly reverence. And so the said Sir 
Piere called this yonge squier with his voys before alle the statis, and saide 
unto hym and axed hym, where was his fedylle or hys ribible, or suche an 
instrument as longethe unto a mynstralle. ' Syr,' saide the squier, ' I canne 
not medille me of such thinge, it is not my craft nor science.' ' Sir,' saide 
the knight, ' I canne not trowe that ye saye, for ye be counterfait in youre 
araye and lyke unto a mynstralle ; for I have knowe herebefore alle youre 
aunse tours, and the knightes and squiers of youre kin, which were alle worth ie 
men ; but I sawe never none of hem that were [wore] counterfait, nor that 
clothed hem in such array.' And thanne the yonge squier answered the 
knight and saide, 'Sir, by as moche as it mislykithe you it shalle be 
amended,' and cleped a pursevant and gave him the cote-hardy. And he 
abled hym selff in an other gowne, and come agen into the halle, and 
thanne the anncyen knight saide openly, ' This yonge squier shalle have 

* Introduction to his " Reliques of Early English Poetry." 

f The close-fitting outer garment worn in the fourteenth century, shown in the 
engravings on p. 350. 

The Kenilworth Minstrel, 305 

worshipe for he hath trowed and do bi the counsaile of the elder with- 
oute ani contraryenge.'" 

In the time of Henry VII. we read of nine ells of tavmy cloth for three 
minstrels ; and in the " History of Jack of Newbury," of " a noise [i.e. band] 
of musicians in townie coats, who, putting off their caps, asked if they would 
have music." And lastly, there is a description of the person who personated 
" an ancient mynstrell " in one of the pageants which were played before 
Queen Elizabeth at her famous visit to Kenilworth, which is curious 
enough to be quoted. " A person, very meet seemed he for the purpose, 
of a forty-five years old, apparalled partly as he would himself. His cap 
off; his head seemly rounded tonsterwise ;* fair kembed, that with a 
sponge daintily dipped in a little capon's grease was finely smoothen, to 
make it shine like a mallard's wing. His beard smugly shaven ; and yet 
his shirt after the new trick, with ruffs fair starched, sleeked and glistering 
like a paire of new shoes, marshalled in good order with a setting stick 
and strut, that every ruff stood up like a wafer. A side {i.e. long) gown of 
Kendal Green, after the freshness of the year now, gathered at the neck 
with a narrow gorget, fastened afore with white clasp and keeper close up 
to the chin ; but easily, for heat to undo when he list. Seemly begirt in a 
red caddis girdle : from that a pair of capped Sheffield knives hanging 
a' two sides. Out of his bosom drawn forth a lappel of his napkin {i.e. 
handkerchief) edged with a blue lace, and marked with a true love, a 
heart, and a D. for Damian, for he was but a batchelor yet His gown 
had side {i.e. long) sleeves down to midleg, slit from the shoulder to the 
hand, and lined with white cotton. His doublet sleeves of black worsted : 
upon them a pair of paynets (perhaps points) of tawny chamlet laced 
along the wrist with blue threaden points, a weall towards the hand of 
fustian-a-napes. A pair of red neather socks. A pair of pumps on his 
feet, with a cross cut at the toes for corns : not new, indeed, yet cleanly 
blackt with soot, and shining as a shoeing horn. About his neck a red 
ribband suitable to his girdle. His harp in good grace dependant before 
him. His wrest tyed to a green lace, and hanging by ; under the gorget 

* Which Percy supposes to mean ■ tonsure-wise," like priests and monks. 



The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

of his gown a fair flaggon chain (pewter for) silver, as a squire-minstrel * 
of Middlesex that travelled the country this summer season, unto fairs and 
worshipful men's houses. From this chain hung a scutcheon, with metal 
and colour resplendant upon his breast, of the ancient arms of Islington," 
to which place he is represented as belonging. 

From these authorities Percy would deduce that the minstrels were 
tonsured and apparelled very much after the same fashion as priests. The 

A Band of Minstrels. 

pictorial authorities do not bear out any such conclusion. There are 
abundant authorities for the belief that the dress of the minstrels was 
remarkable for a very unclerical sumptuousness ; but in looking through 
the numerous ancient representations of minstrels we find no trace of the 
tonsure, and no peculiarity of dress ; they are represented in the ordinary 
costume of their time j in colours blue, red, grey, particoloured, like other 
civilians ; with hoods, or hats, or without either ; frequently the different 
members of the same band of minstrels present all these differences of 

* Percy supposes from this expression that there were inferior orders, as yeomen- 
minstrels. May we not also infer that there were superior orders, as knight-minstrels, 
over whom was the king-minstrel ? for we are told " he was but a batchelor (whose 
chivalric signification has no reference to matrimony) yet." We are disposed to believe 
that this was a real minstrel. Langham tells us that he was dressed "partly as he would 
himself:" probably, the only things which were not according to his wont, were that my 
Lord of Leicester may have given him a new coat ; that he had a little more capon's 
grease than usual in his hair ; and that he was set to sing " a solemn song, warranted for 
story, out of King Arthur's Acts." instead of more modern minstrel ware. 

Private Minstrels. 


costume, as in the instance here given, from the title-page of the fourteenth 
century MS. Add., 10,293; proving that the minstrels did not affect any 
uniformity of costume whatever. 

The household minstrels probably wore their master's badge* (liveries 
were not usual until a late period) ; others the badge of their guild. Thus 
in the Morte Arthur, Sir Dinadan makes a reproachful lay against King 
Arthur, and teaches it an harper, that hight Elyot, and sends him to sing 
it before King Mark and his nobles at a great feast. The king asked, 
" Thou harper, how durst thou be so bold to sing this song before me ? " 
■ Sir," said Elyot, " wit you well I am a minstrell, and I must doe as I am 
commanded of these lords that / bear the armes of '? and in proof of the 
privileged character of the minstrel we find the outraged king replying, 
" Thou saiest well, I charge thee that thou hie thee fast out of my sight" 
So the squire-minstrel of Middlesex, who belonged to Islington, had a 

Cymbals and Trumpets. 

chain round his neck, with a scutcheon upon it, upon which were blazoned 
the arms of Islington. And in the effigies of the Beverley minstrels, 
which we have given on page 298, we find that their costume is 
the ordinary costume of the period, and is not alike in all; but that 
each of them has a chain round his neck, to which is suspended what is 
probably a scutcheon, like that of the Islington minstrel, In short, a 

* Heralds in the fourteenth century bore the arms of their lord on a small scutcheoa 
fastened at the side of their girdle. 


The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

careful examination of a number of illustrations in illuminated MSS. of 
various dates, from Saxon downwards, leaves the impression that minstrels 

Regals and Double Pipe (Royal 2 B vii). 

wore the ordinary costume of their period, more or less rich in material, or 
fashionable in cut, according to their means and taste ; and that the only 

Regals or Organ (Royal, 14 E iii). 

distinctive mark of their profession was the instrument which each bore, 
or, as in the case of the Kenilworth minstrel, the tuning wrest hung by a 

Musical Instruments. 309 

riband to his girdle ; and in the case of a household minstrel the badge of 
the lord whom he served. 

The forms of the most usual musical instruments of various periods may 
be gathered from the illustrations which have already been given. The 
most common are the harp, fiddle, cittern or lute, hand-organ, the shalm 
or psaltery, the pipe and tabor, pipes of various sizes played like clarionets, 
but called flutes, the double pipe, hand-bells, trumpets and horns, bag- 
pipes, tambourine, tabret, drum, and cymbals. Of the greater number of 
these we have already incidentally given illustrations; we add, on the 
last page, other illustrations, from the Royal MS., 2 B vii., and Royal 
MS. 14 E iii. In the fourteenth century new instruments were invented. 
Guillaume de Marhault in his poem of " Le Temps Pastour," gives us an 
idea of the multitude of instruments which composed a grand concert of 
the fifteenth century ; he says * — 

" La je vis tout en un cerne 
Viole, rubebe, guiterne, 
L'enmorache, le micamon, 
Citole et Psalterion, 
Harpes, tabours, trompes, nacaires, 
Orgues, comes plus de dix paires, 
Cornemuse, flajos et chevrettes 
Douceines, simbales, clochettes, 
Tymbre, la flauste lorehaigne, 
Et le grand comet d'Allemayne, 
Flacos de sans, fistule, pipe, 
Muse d'Aussay, trompe petite, 
Buisine, eles, monochorde, 
Ou il n' y a qu'une corde ; 
Et muse de blet tout ensemble. 
Et certainment il me semble 
Qu' oncques mais tele mfilodie 
Ne feust oncques vene ne oye ; 
Car chascun d'eux, selon l'accort 
De son instrument sans descort, 
Vitole, guiteme, citole, 
Harpe, trompe, come, flajole, 
Pipe, souffle, muse, naquaire, 
Taboure et qu eunque ou put faire 

* " Annales Archaeologiques," vii. p. 323. 


The Minstrels of the Middle Ages. 

De dois, de peune et a l'archet, 
Ois et vis en ce porchet." 

In conclusion we give a group of musical instruments from one of the 
illustrations of " Der Weise Konig," a work of the close of the fifteenth 

Musical Instruments of the \$th Century. 




E proceed, in this division of our work, to select out of the inex- 
haustible series of pictures of mediaeval life and manners con- 
tained in illuminated MSS., a gallery of subjects which will 
illustrate the armour and costume, the military life and chivalric adventures, 
of the Knights of the Middle Ages ; and to append to the pictures such 
explanations as they may seem to need, and such discursive remarks as 
the subjects may suggest. 

For the military costume of the Anglo-Saxon period we have the 
authority of the descriptions in their literature, illustrated by drawings in 
their illuminated MSS. ; and if these leave anything wanting in definiteness, 
the minutest details of form and ornamentation may often be recovered 
from the rusted and broken relics of armour and weapons which have 
been recovered from their graves, and are now preserved in our museums. 

Saxon freemen seem to have universally borne arms. Tacitus tells us of 
their German ancestors, that swords were rare among them, and the majority 
did not use lances, but that spears, with a narrow, sharp and short head, 
were the common and universal weapon, used either in distant or close fight; 
and that even the cavalry were satisfied with a shield and one ot these spears. 

The law in later times seems to have required freemen to bear arms for 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

the common defence; the laws of Gula, which are said to have been 
originally established by Hacon the Good in the middle of the eighth 
century, required every man who possessed six marks besides his clothes 
to furnish himself with a red shield and a spear, an axe or a sword ; he who 
was worth twelve marks was to have a steel cap also ; and he who was 
worth eighteen marks a byrnie, or shirt of mail, in addition. Accordingly, 
in the exploration of Saxon graves we find in those of men " spears and 
javelins are extremely numerous," says Mr. C. Roach Smith, " and of a 

variety of shapes and sizes." "So constantly do we find them in 

the Saxon graves, that it would appear no man above the condition of a 
serf was buried without one. Some are of large size, but the majority 
come under the term of javelin or dart." The rusty spear-head lies beside 

the skull, and the iron boss of the shield on 
his breast; the long, broad, heavy, rusted 
sword is comparatively seldom found beside 
the skeleton ; sometimes, but rarely, the iron 
frame of a skull-cap or helmet is found about 
the head. 

An examination of the pictures in the 
Saxon illuminated MSS. confirms the conclu- 
sion that the shield and spear were the com- 
mon weapons. Their bearers are generally in 
the usual civil costume, and not infrequently 
are bare-headed. The spear-shaft is almost 
always spoken of as being of ash-wood ; in- 
deed, the word asc (ash) is used by metonymy 
for a spear ; and the common poetic name 
for a soldier is <zsc-ber end, or cesc-born, a spear-bearer; just as, in later times, 
we speak of him as a swordsman. 

We learn from the poets that the shield — " the broad war disk " — was 
made of linden-wood, as in Beowulf : — 

" He could not then refrain, 
but grasped his shield 
the yellow linden, 
drew his ancient sword." 

Saxon Soldiers. 

Saxon Militia. 


From the actual remains of shields, we find that the central boss was of 
iron, of conical shape, and that a handle was fixed across its concavity by 
which it was held in the hand. 

The helmet is of various shapes ; the commonest are the three repre- 

Saxon Horse Soldiers. 

sented in our first four wood-cuts. The most common is the conical shape 
seen in the large wood-cut on p. 316. 

The Phrygian-shaped helmet, seen in the single figure on p. 314 is also 
a very common form ; and the curious crested helmet worn by all the 
warriors in our first two wood-cuts of Saxon soldiers is also common. In 
some cases the conical helmet was of iron, but perhaps more frequently it 
was of leather, strengthened with a frame of iron. 

In the group of four foot soldiers in our first wood-cut, it will be observed 
that the men wear tunics, hose, and shoes ; the multiplicity of folds and 
fluttering ends in the drapery is a characteristic of Saxon art, but the spirit 
and elegance of the heads is very unusual and very admirable. 

Our first three illustrations are taken from a beautiful little MS. of Pru- 
dentius in the Cottonian Library, known under the press mark, Cleopatra 
C. iv. The illuminations in this MS. are very clearly and skilfully drawn 
with the pen ; indeed, many of them are designed with so much spirit and 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

skill and grace, as to make them not only of antiquarian interest, but also 
of high artistic merit. The subjects are chiefly illustrations of Scripture 
history or of allegorical fable ; but, thanks to the custom which prevailed 
throughout the Middle Ages of representing all such subjects in contem- 
porary costume, and according to contemporary manners and customs, 
the Jewish patriarchs and their servants afford us perfectly correct repre- 
sentations of Saxon thanes and their cheorls ; Goliath, a perfect picture of 
a Saxon warrior, armed cap-b-pied ; and Pharaoh and his nobles of a Saxon 
Basileus and his witan. Thus, our second wood-cut is an illustration of 
the incident of Lot and his family being carried away captives by the 
Canaanitish kings after their successful raid against the cities of the plain ; 
but it puts before our eyes a group of the armed retainers of a Saxon king 
on a military expedition. It will be seen that they wear the ordinary 
Saxon civil costume, a tunic and cloak ; that they are all armed with the 
spear, all wear crested helmets ; and the last of the group carries a round 
shield suspended at his back. The variety of attitude, the spirit and life 
of the figures, and the skill and gracefulness of the drawing, are admirable. 
Another very valuable series of illustrations of Saxon military costume 
will be found in a MS. of ^Elfric's Paraphrase of 
the Pentateuch and Joshua, in the British 
Museum (Cleopatra B. iv.) ; at folio 25, for ex- 
ample, we have a representation of Abraham 
pursuing the five kings in order to rescue Lot : 
in the version of the Saxon artist the patriarch 
and his Arab servants are translated into a Saxon 
thane and his house carles, who are represented 
marching in a long array which takes up two 
bands of drawing across the vellum page. 

The Anglo-Saxon poets let us know that chief- 
tains and warriors wore a body defence, which 

they call a byrnie or a battle-sark. In the illu- 

Saxon Soldier, in Leather . , . 

Armour. minations we find this sometimes 01 leather, as 

in the wood-cut here given from the Prudentius which has already supplied 

us with two illustrations. It is very usually Vandyked at the edges, as 

Saxon Armour. 315 

here represented. But the epithets, " iron byrnie," and " ringed byrnie," 
and " twisted battle-sark," show that the hauberk was often made of iron 
mail. In some of the illuminations it is represented as if detached rings of 
iron were sewn flat upon it : this may be really a representation of a kind 
of jazerant work, such as was frequently used in later times, or it may be 
only an unskilful way of representing the ordinary linked maiL 

A document of the early part of the eighth century, given in Mr. Thorpe's 
Anglo-Saxon Laws, seems to indicate that at that period the mail hauberk 
was usually worn only by the higher ranks. In distinguishing between the 
eorl and the cheorl it says, if the latter thrive so well that he have a helmet 
and byrnie and sword ornamented with gold, yet if he have not five hydes 
of land, he is only a cheorl. By the time of the end of the Saxon era, 
however, it would seem that the men-at-arms were usually furnished with a 
coat of fence, for the warriors in the battle of Hastings are nearly all so 
represented in the Bayeux tapestry. 

In Yurie's Paraphrase, already mentioned (Cleopatra B. iv.), at folio 64, 
there is a representation of a king clothed in such a mail shirt, armed with 
sword and shield, attended by an armour-bearer, who carries a second 
shield but no offensive weapon, his business being to ward off the blows 
aimed at his lord. We should have given a wood-cut of this interesting 
group, but that it has already been engraved in the " Pictorial History of 
England " (vol. i.) and in Hewitt's " Ancient Armour " (vol. i. p. 60). 
This king with his shield-bearer does not occur in an illustration of 
Goliath and the man bearing a shield who went before him, nor of Saul 
and his armour-bearer, where it would be suggested by the text ; but is 
one of the three kings engaged in battle against the cities of the plain ; 
it seems therefore to indicate a Saxon usage. Another of the kings in 
the same picture has no hauberk, but only the same costume as the warrior 
in the wood-cut on the next page. 

In the Additional MS. 11,695, m me British Museum, a work of the 
eleventh century, there are several representations of warriors thus fully 
armed, very rude and coarse in drawing, but valuable for the clearness 
with which they represent the military equipment of the time. At folio 
194 there is a large figure of a warrior in a mail shirt, a conical helmet, 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

strengthened with iron ribs converging to the apex, the front rib extending 
downwards, into what is called a nasal, i.e., a piece of iron extending 
downwards over the nose, so as to protect the face from a sword-cut across 
the upper part of it. At folio 233 of the same MS. is a group of six 
warriors, two on horseback and four on foot. We find them all with 

No. 4. 

hauberk, iron helmets, round shields, and various kinds of leg defences ; 
they have spears, swords, and one of the horsemen bears a banner of 
characteristic shape, i.e., it is a right-angled triangle, with the shortest side 
applied to the spear-shaft, so that the right angle is at the bottom. 

Saxon Military Customs. 317 

A few extracts from the poem of Beowulf, a curious Saxon fragment, 
which the best scholars concur in assigning to the end of the eighth cen- 
tury, will help still further to bring these ancient warriors before our mind's 

Here is a scene in King Hrothgar's hall : 

" After evening came 
and Hrothgar had departed 
to his court, 
guarded the mansion 
countless warriors, 
as they oft ere had done, 
they bared the bench-floor 
it was overspread 
with beds and bolsters, 
they set at their heads 
their disks of war, 
their shield-wood bright ■ 
there on the bench was 
over the noble, 
easy to be seen, 
his high martial helm, 
his ringed bymie 
and war-wood stout." 

Beowulf s funeral pole is said to be — 

" with helmets, war brands, 
and bright bymies behung." 

And in this oldest of Scandinavian romances we have the natural refleC' 
lions — 

" the hard helm shall 

adorned with gold 

from the fated fall ; 

mortally wounded sleep 

those who war to rage 

by trumpet should announce ; 

in like manner the war shirt 

which in battle stood 

over the crash of shields 

the bite of swords 

shall moulder after the warrior ; 

the bymie's ring may not 

3 1 8 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

after the martial leader 

go far on the side of heroes ; 

there is no joy of harp 

no glee-wood's mirth, 

no good hawk 

swings through the hall, 

nor the swift steed 

tramps the city place. 

Baleful death 

has many living kinds 

sent forth." 

Reflections which Coleridge summed up in the brief lines— 

" Their swords are rust, 
Their bones are dust, 
Their souls are with the saints, we trust." 

The wood-cut on page 316 is taken from a collection of various Saxon 
pictures in the British Museum, bound together in the volume marked 
Tiberius C. vi., at folio 9. Our wood-cut is a reduced copy. In the original 
the warrior is seven or eight inches high, and there is, therefore, ample room 
for the delineation of every part of his costume. From the embroidery of 
the tunic, and the ornamentation of the shield and helmet, we conclude 
that we have before us a person of consideration, and he is represented 
as in the act of combat ; but we see his armour and arms are only those 
to which we have already affirmed that the usual equipment was limited. 
The helmet seems to be strengthened with an iron rim and converging 
ribs, and is furnished with a short nasal. 

The figure is without the usual cloak, and therefore the better shows the 
fashion of the tunic. The banding of the legs was not for defence, it is 
common in civil costume. The quasi-banding of the forearm is also some- 
times found in civil costume ; it seems not to be an actual banding, still 
less a spiral armlet, but merely a fashion of wearing the tunic sleeve. We 
see how the sword is, rather inartificially, slung by a belt over the 
shoulder; how the shield is held by the iron handle across its hollow 
spiked umbo ; and how the barbed javelin is cast. 

On the preceding page of this MS. is a similar figure, but without the 

Saxon Weapons. 319 

There were some other weapons frequently used by the Saxons which 
we have not yet had occasion to mention. The most important of these 
is the axe. It is not often represented in illuminations, and is very rarely 
found in graves, but it certainly was extensively in use in the latter part 
of the Anglo-Saxon period, and was perhaps introduced by the Danes. 
The house carles of Canute, we are expressly told, were armed with axes, 
halberds, and swords, ornamented with gold. In the ship which Godwin 
presented to Hardicanute, William of Malmesbury tells us the soldiers 
wore two bracelets of gold on each arm, each bracelet weighing sixteen 
ounces ; they had gilt helmets ; in the right hand they carried a spear of 
iron, and in the left a Danish axe, and they wore swords hilted with gold. 
The axe was also in common use by the Saxons at the battle of Hastings. 
There are pictorial examples of the single axe in the Cottonian MS., Cleo- 
patra C. viii. ; of the double axe — the bipennis — in the Harleian MS., 
603 ; and of various forms of the weapon, including the pole-axe, in the 
Bayeux tapestry. 

The knife or dagger was also a Saxon weapon. There is a picture in 
the Anglo-Saxon MS. in the Paris Library, called the Duke de Bern's 
Psalter, in which a combatant is armed with what appears to be a large 
double-edged knife and a shield, and actual examples of it occur in Saxon 
graves. The seax, which is popularly believed to have been a dagger and 
a characteristic Saxon weapon, seems to have been a short single-edged 
slightly curved weapon, and is rarely found in England. It is mentioned 
in Beowulf: — he — 

*' drew his deadly seax, 
bitter and battle sharp, 
that he on his bymie bore." 

The sword was usually about three feet long, two-edge^l and heavy in 
the blade. Sometimes, especially in earlier examples, it is without a 
guard. Its hilt was sometimes of the ivory of the walrus, occasionally of 
gold, the blade was sometimes inlaid with gold ornaments and runic verses. 
Thus in Beowulf — 

u So was on the surface 
of the bright gold 

320 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

with runic letters 

lightly marked, 

set and said, for whom that sword, 

costliest of irons, 

was first made, 

with twisted hilt and 

serpent shaped." 

The Saxons indulged in many romantic fancies about their swords. Some 
swordsmiths chanted magical verses as they welded them, and tempered 
them with mystical ingredients. Beowulf's sword was a — 

"tempered falchion 
that had before been one 
of the old treasures ; 
its edge was iron 
tainted with poisonous things 
hardened with warrior blood ; 
never had it deceived any man 
of those who brandished it with hands." 

Favourite swords had names given them, and were handed down from 
father to son, or passed from champion to champion, and became famous. 
Thus, again, in Beowulf, we read — 

'* He could not then refrain, 
but grasped his shield, 
the yellow linden, 
drew his ancient sword 
that among men was 
a relic of Eanmund, 
Ohthere's son, 
of whom in conflict was, 
when a friendless exile, 
Weohstan the slayer 
with falchions edges, 
and from his kinsmen bore away 
_ the brown-hued helm, 

the ringed byrnie, 
the old Eotenish* sword 
which him Onela had given." 

There is a fine and very perfect example of a Saxon sword in the 

• " Eoten," a giant; "Eotenish," made by or descended from the giants. 

Saxon Weapons. 321 

British Museum, which was found in the bed of the river Withara, at 
Lincoln. The sheath was usually of wood, covered with leather, and 
tipped, and sometimes otherwise ornamented with metal. 

The spear was used javelin-wise, and the warrior going into battle 
sometimes carried several of them. They are long-bladed, often barbed, as 
represented in the woodcut on p. 316, and very generally have one or two 
little cross-bars below the head, as in cuts on pp. 313 and 314. The Saxon 
artillery, besides the javelin, was the bow and arrows. The bow is usually 
a small one, of the old classical shape, not the long bow for which the 
English yeomen afterwards became so famous, and which seems to have 
been introduced by the Normans. 

In the latest period of the Saxon monarchy, the armour and weapons 
were almost identical with those used on the Continent. We have 
abundant illustrations of them in the Bayeux tapestry. In that invaluable 
historical monument, the minutest differences between the Saxon and 
Norman knights and men-at-arms seem to be carefully observed, even to 
the national fashions of cutting the hair ; and we are therefore justified in 
assuming that there were no material differences in the military equip- 
ment, since we find none indicated, except that the Normans used the 
long bow and the Saxons did not. We have abstained from taking any 
illustrations from the tapestry, because the whole series has been several 
times engraved, and is well known, or, at least, is easily accessible, to those 
who are interested in the subject. We have preferred to take an illustra- 
tion from a MS. in the British Museum, marked Harleian 2,895, fr° m 
folio 82 v. The warrior, who is no less a person than Goliath of Gath, 
has a hooded hauberk, with sleeves down to the elbow, over a green 
tunic. The legs are tinted blue in the drawing, but seem to be unarmed, 
except for the green boots, which reach half way to the knee. He wears 
an iron helmet with a nasal, and the hood appears to be fastened to the 
nasal, so as to protect the lower part of the face. The large shield is 
red, with a yellow border, and is hung from the neck by a chain. The 
belt round his waist is red. The well-armed giant leans upon his spear, 
looking down contemptuously on David, whom it has not been thought 
necessary to include in our copy of the picture. The group forms a very 



The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

appropriate filling-in of the great initial letter B of the Psalm Benedidus 
Dns. Ds. Ms. qui docet manus meas ad prmlium et digitos meos ad bellum 
(Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to war and my 
fingers to fight). In the same MS., at folio 70, there 
are two men armed with helmet and sword, and at 
folio 81 v. a group of armed men on horseback, in 
sword, shield, and spurs. 

It may be convenient to some of our readers, if we 
indicate here where a few other examples of Saxon 
military costume may be found which we have noted 
down, but have not had occasion to refer to in the 
above remarks. 

In the MS. of Prudentius (Cleopatra C. vni.), from 
which we have taken our first three woodcuts, are 
many other pictures well worth study. On the same 
page (folio 1 v.) as that which contains our wood-cut 
p. 312, there is another very similar group on the lower 
part of the page ; on folio 2 is still another group, in 
which some of the faces are most charming in drawing 
and expression. At folio 15 v. there is a spirited 
combat of two footmen, armed with sword and round 
shield, and clad in short leather coats of fence, 
vandyked at the edges. At folio 24 v. is an alle- 
gorical female figure in a short leather tunic, with shading on it which 
seems to indicate that the hair of the leather has been left on, and is worn 
outside, which we know from other sources was one of the fashions of the 
time. In the MS. of ^lfric's Paraphrase (Claud. B. iv.) already quoted, 
there are, besides the battle scene at folio 24 v., in which occurs the 
king and his armour-bearer, at folio 25 two long lines of Saxon horsemen 
marching across the page, behind Abraham, who wears a crested Phrygian 
helm. On the reverse of folio 25 there is another group, and also on folios 
62 and 64. On folio 52 is another troop, of Esau's horsemen, marching 
across the page in ranks of four abreast, all bareheaded and armed with 
spears. At folio 96 v. is another example of a warrior, with a shield- 

Saxon Arms and Armour. 323 

bearer. The pictures in the latter part of this MS. are not nearly so 
clearly delineated as in the former part, owing to their having been tinted 
with colour ; the colour, however, enables us still more completely to fill 
in to the mind's eye the distinct forms which we have gathered from the 
former part of the book. The large troops of soldiers are valuable, as 
showing us the style of equipment which was common in the Saxon 

There is another MS. of Prudentius in the British Museum of about the 
same date, and of the same school of art, though not quite so finely 
executed, which is well worth the study of the artist in search of authori- 
ties for Saxon military (and other) costume, and full of interest for the 
amateur of art and archaeology. Its press mark is Cottonian, Titus D. xvi. 
On the reverse of folio 2 is a group of three armed horsemen, representing 
the confederate kings of Canaan carrying off Lot, while Abraham, at the 
head of another group of armed men, is pursuing them. On folio 3 is 
another group of armed horsemen. After these Scripture histories come 
some allegorical subjects, conceived and drawn with great spirit. At 
folio 6 v., "Pudicitia pugnat contra Libidinem" Pudicitia being a 
woman armed with hauberk, helmet, spear, and shield. On the opposite 
page Pudicitia — in a very spirited attitude — is driving her spear through 
the throat of Libido. On folio 26 v., " Discordia vulnerat occulte 
Concordiutn" Concord is represented as a woman armed with a loose- 
sleeved hauberk, helmet, and sword. Discord is lifting up the skirt of 
Concord's hauberk, and thrusting a sword into her side. In the Harleian 
MS. 2,803, i s a Vulgate Bible, of date about 1 170 a.d. ; there are no pictures, 
only the initial letters of the various books are illuminated. But while 
the illuminator was engaged upon the initial of the Second Book of Kings, 
his eye seems to have been caught by the story of Saul's death in the last 
chapter of the First Book, which happens to come close by in the parallel 
column of the great folio page : — Arripuit itaqu, gladium d erruit sup. eum 
(Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it) ; and he has sketched in 
the scene with pen-and-ink on the margin of the page, thus affording us 
another authority for the armour of a Saxon king when actually engaged in 
battle. He wears a hauberk, with an ornamented border, has his crown 

3 24 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

on his head, and spurs on his heels ; has placed his sword-hilt on the 
ground, and fallen upon it. 

In the Additional MS. 11,695, on folio I02 v -> are fo ur armed men 
on horseback, habited in hauberks without hoods. Two of them have the 
sleeves extending to the wrist, two have loose sleeves to the elbow only, 
showing that the two fashions were worn contemporaneously. They all 
have mail hose ; one of them is armed with a bow, the rest with the 
sword. There are four men in similar armour on folio 136 v. of the 
same MS. Also at folio 143, armed with spear, sword, and round orna- 
mented shield. At folio 222 V. are soldiers manning a gate-tower. 

When the soldiers so very generally wore the ordinary citizen costume, 
it becomes necessary, in order to give a complete picture of the military 
costume, to say a few words on the dress which the soldier wore in com- 
mon with the citizen. The tunic and mantle composed the national 
costume of the Saxons. The tunic reached about to the knee : some- 
times it was slit up a little way at the sides, and it often had a rich orna- 
mented border round the hem, extending round the side slits, making the 
garment almost exactly resemble the ecclesiastical tunic or Dalmatic. It 
had also very generally a narrower ornamental border round the opening 
for the neck. The tunic was sometimes girded round the waist. 

The Saxons were famous for their skill in embroidery, and also in 
metal-work ; and there are sufficient proofs that the tunic was often richly 
embroidered. There are indications of it in the wood-cut on p. 316 ; and 
in the relics of costume found in the Saxon graves are often buckles of 
elegant workmanship, which fastened the belt with which the tunic was girt. 
The mantle was in the form of a short cloak, and was usually fastened at 
the shoulder, as in the wood-cuts on pp. 3 1 2, 3 1 3, 3 1 4, so as to leave the right 
arm unencumbered by its folds. The brooch with which this cloak was 
fastened formed a very conspicuous item of costume. They were of large 
size, some ot them of bronze gilt, others of gold, beautifully ornamented 
with enamels ; and there is this interesting fact about them, they seem to 
corroborate the old story, that the Saxon invaders were of three different 
tribes — the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons — who subdued and inhabited different 
portions of Britain. For in Kent and the Isle of Wight, the settlements of 

Saxon Ornaments. 325 

the Jutes, brooches are found of circular form, often of gold and enamelled. 
In the counties of Yorkshire, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Northampton, 
and in the eastern counties, a large gilt bronze brooch of peculiar form is 
very commonly found, and seems to denote a peculiar fashion of the 
Angles, who inhabited East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria. Still ano- 
ther variety of fashion, shaped like a saucer, has been discovered in the 
counties of Gloucester, Oxford, and Buckingham, on the border between 
the Mercians and West Saxons. It is curious to find these peculiar 
fashions thus confirming the ancient and obscure tradition about the 
original Saxon settlements. The artist will bear in mind that the Saxons 
seem generally to have settled in the open country, not in the towns, and 
to have built timber halls and cottages after their own custom, and to have 
avoided the sites of the Romano-British villas, whose blackened ruins must 
have thickly dotted at least the southern and south-eastern parts of the 
island. They appear to have built no fortresses, if we except a few erected 
at a late period, to check the incursions of the Danes. But they had the 
old Roman towns left, in many cases with their walls and gates tolerably 
entire. In the Saxon MS. Psalter, Harleian 603, are several illuminations 
in which walled towns and gates are represented. But we do not gather 
that they were very skilful either in the attack or defence of fortified 
places. Indeed, their weapons and armour were of a very primitive kind, 
and their warfare seems to have been conducted after a very unscientific 
fashion. Little chance had their rude Saxon hardihood against the military 
genius of William the Norman and the disciplined valour of his bands of 
mercenaries . 



HE Conquest and subsequent confiscations put the land of Eng- 
land so entirely into the hands of William the Conqueror, that 
he was able to introduce the feudal system into England in a 
more simple and symmetrical shape than that in which it obtained in any 
other country of Europe. The system was a very intelligible one. The 
king was supposed to be the lord of all the land of the kingdom. He 
retained large estates in his own hands, and from these estates chiefly he 
derived his personal followers and his royal revenues. The rest of the 
land he let in large lordships to his principal nobles, on condition that 
they should maintain for the defence of the kingdom a certain number of 
men armed after a stipulated fashion, and should besides aid him on cer- 
tain occasions with money payments, with which we have at present no 

These chief tenants of the crown followed the example of the sovereign. 
Each retained a portion of the land in his own hands, and sub-let the 
rest in estates of larger or smaller size, on condition that each noble or 
knight who held of him should supply a proportion of the armed force he 
was required to furnish to the royal standard, and contribute a propor- 
tion of the money payments for which he was liable to be called upon. 
Each knight let the farms on his manor to his copyholders, on condition 
that they provided themselves with the requisite arms, and assembled 
under his banner when called upon for military suit and service ; and 
they rendered certain personal services, and made certain payments in 
money or in kind besides, in lieu of rent. Each manor, therefore, fur- 

The Feudal Militia. 327 

nished its troop of soldiers ; the small farmers, perhaps, and the knight's 
personal retainers fighting on foot, clad in leather jerkins, and armed with 
pike or bow ; two or three of his greater copyholders in skull caps and 
coats of fence ; his younger brothers or grown-up sons acting as men- 
at-arms and esquires, on horseback, in armour almost or quite as complete 
as his own ; while the knight himself, on his war horse, armed from top to 
toe — cap-d-pud — with shield on arm and lance in hand, with its knight's 
pennon fluttering from the point, was the captain of the little troop. The 
troops thus furnished by his several manors made up the force which the 
feudal lord was bound to furnish the king, and the united divisions made 
up the army of the kingdom. 

Besides this feudal army bound to render suit and service at the call of 
its sovereign, the laws of the kingdom also required all men of fit age — 
between sixteen and sixty — to keep themselves furnished with arms, and 
made them liable to be called out en masse in great emergencies. This 
was the Posse Comitatus, the force of the county, and was under the com- 
mand of the sheriff. We learn some particulars on the subject from an 
assize of arms of Henry II., made in 1181, which required all his subjects 
being free men to be ready in defence of the realm. Whosoever holds 
one knight's fee, shall have a hauberk, helmet, shield and lance, and every 
knight as many such equipments as he has knight's fees in his domain. 
Every free layman having ten marks in chattels shall have a habergeon, 
iron cap, and lance. All burgesses and the whole community of freemen 
shall have each a coat of fence (padded and quilted, a wambeys), iron cap, 
and lance. Any one having more arms than those required by the statute, 
was to sell or otherwise dispose of them, so that they might be utilised for 
the king's service, and no one was to carry arms out of the kingdom. 

There were two great points of difference between the feudal system as 
introduced into England and as established on the Continent. William 
made all landowners owe fealty to himself, and not only the tenants in 
capite. And next, though he gave his chief nobles immense possessions, 
these possessions were scattered about in different parts of the kingdom. 
The great provinces which had once been separate kingdoms of the Saxon 
heptarchy, still retained, down to the time of the Confessor, much of 

328 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

their old political feeling. Kentish men, for example, looked on one 
another as brothers, but Essex men, or East Anglians, or Mercians, or 
Northumbrians, were foreigners to them. If the Conqueror had committed 
the blunder of giving his great nobles all their possessions together, Rufus 
might have found the earls of Mercia or Northumbria semi-independent, 
as the kings of France found their great vassals of Burgundy, and Cham- 
pagne, and Normandy, and Bretagne. But, by the actual arrangement, 
every county was divided ; one powerful noble had a lordship here, and 
another had half-a-dozen manors there, and some religious community had 
one or two manors between. The result was, that though a combination 
of great barons was powerful enough to coerce John or Henry III., or a 
single baron like Warwick was powerful enough, when the nobility were 
divided into two factions, to turn the scale to one side or the other, no 
one was ever able to set the power of the crown at defiance, or to establish 
a semi-independence ; the crown was always powerful enough to enforce a 
sufficiently arbitrary authority over them all. The consequence was that 
tnere was little of the clannish spirit among Englishmen. They rallied 
round their feudal superior, but the sentiment of loyalty was warmly and 
directly towards the crown. 

We must not, however, pursue the general subject further than we have 
done, in order to obtain some apprehension of the position in the body 
politic occupied by the class of persons with whom we are specially con- 
cerned. Of their social position we may perhaps briefly arrive at a correct 
estimate, if we call to mind that nearly all our rural parishes are divided 
into several manors, which date from the Middle Ages, some more, some 
less remotely ; for as population increased and land increased in value, there 
was a tendency to the subdivision of old manors and the creation of new 
ones out of them. Each of these manors, in the times to which our re- 
searches are directed, maintained a family of gentle birth and knightly 
rank. The head of the family was usually a knight, and his sons were 
eligible for, and some of them aspirants to, the same rank in chivalry. So 
that the great body of the knightly order consisted of the country gentle- 
men — the country squires we call them now, then they were the country 
knights — whose wealth and social importance gave them a claim to the 

Twelfth Century Armour. 329 

rank ; and to these we must add such of their younger brothers and grown- 
up sons as had ambitiously sought for and happily achieved the chivalric 
distinction by deeds of arms. The rest of the brothers and sons who had 
not entered the service of the Church as priest or canon, monk or friar, 
or into trade, continued in the lower chivalric and social rank of squires. 

When we come to look for authorities for the costume and manners of 
the knights of the Middle Ages, we find a great scarcity of them for the 
period between the Norman Conquest and the beginning of the Edwardian 
era. The literary authorities are not many ; there are as yet few of the 
illuminated MSS., from which we derive such abundant material in the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ;* the sepulchral monuments are not 
numerous ; the valuable series of monumental brasses has not begun ; the 
Bayeux tapestry, which affords abundant material for the special time to 
which it relates, we have abstained from drawing upon ; and there are few 
subjects in any ether class of pictorial art to help us out 

The figure of Goliath, which we gave in our last chapter (p. 322), will serve 
very well for a general representation of a knight of the twelfth century. 
In truth, from the Norman Conquest down to the introduction of plate 
armour at the close of the thirteenth century, there was wonderfully little 
alteration in the knightly armour and costume. It would seem that the 
body armour consisted of garments of the ordinary fashion, either quilted 
in their substance to deaden the force of a blow, or covered with mailles 
(rings) on the exterior, to resist the edge of sword or point of lance. The 
ingenuity of the armourer showed itself in various ways of quilting, and 
various methods of applying the external defence of metal. Of the quilted 
armours we know very little. In the illuminations is often seen armour 
covered over with lines arranged in a lozenge pattern, which perhaps repre- 
sents garments stuffed and sewn in this commonest of all patterns of quilting; 
but it has been suggested that it may represent lozenged-shaped scales, of 
horn or metal, fastened upon the face of the garments. In the wood-cut 

* The Harl. MS. 603, of the close of the eleventh century, contains a number of 
military subjects rudely drawn, but conveying suggestions which the artist will be able to 
interpret and profit by. In the Add. MS. 28,107, ° f date a.d. 1096, at f. 25 v., is a 
Goliath; and at f. 1,630 v., a group of soldiers. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

here given from the MS. Caligula A. vii., we have one of the clearest and 
best extant illustrations of this quilted armour. 

In the mail armour there seem to have been different ways of applying 
the mailles. Sometimes it is represented as if the rings were sewn by 
one edge only, and at such a distance that each overlapped the other in 
the same row, but the rows do not overlap one another. Sometimes they 

look as if each row of rings had been sewn 
upon a strip of linen or leather and then 
the strips applied to the garment. Some- 
times the rings were interlinked, as in a 
common steel purse, so that the garment 
was entirely of steel rings. Very frequently 
we find a surcoat or chausses represented, 
as if rings or little discs of metal were sewn 
flat all over the garment. It is possible 
that this is only an artistic way of indicat- 
ing that the garment was covered with 
rings, after one of the methods above de- 
scribed ; but it is also possible that a light 
armour was composed of rings thus sparely 
sewn upon a linen or leather garment. It 
is possible also that little round plates of 
metal or horn were used in this way for 
defence, for we have next to mention that 
scale armour is sometimes, though rarely, 
found ; it consisted of small scales, usually 
rectangular, and probably usually of horn, 
though sometimes of metal, attached to a linen or leather garment. 

The shield and helmet varied somewhat in shape at various times. The 
shield in the Bayeux tapestry was kite-shaped, concave, and tolerably 
large, like that of Goliath on p. 322. The tendency of its fashion was 
continually to grow shorter in proportion to its width, and flatter. The 
round Saxon target continued in use throughout the Middle Ages, more 
especially for foot-soldiers. 

Quilted Armour. 

Twelfth Century Arms and Armour. 33 1 

The helmet, at the beginning of the period, was like the old Saxon 
conical helmet, with a nasal ; and this continued in occasional use far into 
the fourteenth century. About the end of the twelfth century, the cylin- 
drical helmet of iron enclosing the whole head, with horizontal slits for 
vision, came into fashion. Richard I. is represented in one on his second 
great seal. A still later fashion is seen in the next woodcut, p. 334. 
William Longespee, a.d. 1227, has a flat-topped helmet. 

The only two inventions of the time seem to be, first, the surcoat, which 
began to be worn over the hauberk about the end of the twelfth century. 
The seal of King John is the first of the series of great seals in which we 
see it introduced. It seems to have been of linen or silk. 

The other great invention of this period was that of armorial bearings, 
properly so called. Devices painted upon the shield were common in 
classical times. They are found ordinarily on the shields in the Bayeux 
tapestry, and were habitually used by the Norman knights. In the Bayeux 
tapestry they seem to be fanciful or merely decorative ; later they were sym- 
bolical or significant. But it was only towards the close of the twelfth 
century that each knight assumed a fixed device, which was exclusively 
appropriated to him, by which he was known, and which became hereditary 
in his family. 

The offensive weapons used by the knights were most commonly the 
sword and spear. The axe and mace are found, but rareiy. The artillery 
consisted of the crossbow, which was the most formidable missile in use, 
and the long bow, which, however, was not yet the great arm of the 
English yeomanry which it became at a later period ; but these were hardly 
the weapons of knights and gentlemen, though men-at-arms were frequently 
armed with the crossbow, and archers were occasionally mounted. The 
sling was sometimes used, as were other very rude weapons, by the half- 
armed crowd who were often included in the ranks of mediaeval armies. 

We have said that there is a great scarcity of pictorial representations 
of the military costume of the thirteenth century, and of the few which 
exist the majority are so vague in their definition of details, that they add 
nothing to our knowledge of costume, and have so little of dramatic 
character, as to throw no light on manners and customs. Among the best 

33% The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

are some knightly figures in the Harleian Roll, folio 6, which contains a 
life of St. Guthlac of about the end of the twelfth century. The figures are 
armed in short-sleeved and hooded hauberk ; flat-topped iron helmet, some 
with, some without, the nasal ; heater-shaped shield and spear ; the legs 
undefended, except by boots like those of the Goliath on p. 322. 

The Harleian MS. 4,751, a MS. of the beginning of the thirteenth cen- 
tury, shows at folio 8 a group of soldiers attacking a fortification ; it con- 
tains hints enough to make one earnestly desire that the subject had 
been more fully and artistically worked out. The fortification is repre- 
sented by a timber projection carried on brackets from the face of the 
wall. Its garrison is represented by a single knight, whose demi-figure 
only is seen ; he is represented in a short-sleeved hauberk, with a surcoat 
over it having a cross on the breast. He wears a flat- topped cylindrical 
helmet, and is armed with a crossbow. The assailants would seem to be a 
rabble of half-armed men ; one is bareheaded, and armed only with a 
sling ; others have round hats, whether of felt or iron does not appear ; 
one is armed in a hooded hauberk and carries an axe, and a cylindrical 
helmet also appears amidst the crowd. 

In the Harleian MS. 5,102, of the beginning of the thirteenth century, 
at folio 32, there is a representation of the martyrdom of St. Thomas of 
Canterbury, which gives us the effigies of the three murderers in knightly 
costume. They all wear long-sleeved hauberks, which have the peculiarity 
of being slightly slit up the sides, and the tunic flows from beneath them. 
Fitzurse (known by the bear on his shield) has leg defences fastened 
behind, like those in our next woodcut, p. 334, and a circular iron helmet. 
One of the others wears a flat-topped helmet, and the third has the hood 
of mail fastened on the cheek, like that in the same woodcut. The 
drawing is inartistic, and the picture of little value for our present purposes. 

The Harleian MS. 3,244 contains several MSS. bound together. The 
second of these works is a Penitential, which has a knightly figure on 
horseback for its frontispiece. It has an allegorical meaning, and is rather 
curious. The inscription over the figure is Milicia est vita hominis super 
terrain. (The life of man upon the earth is a warfare.) The knightly 
figure represents the Christian man in the spiritual panoply ol this warfare ; 

Thirteenth Century Armour. 333 

and the various items of armour and arms have inscriptions affixed to tell 
us what they are. Thus over the helmet is Spes futuri gaudii (For a 
helmet the hope of salvation) ; his sword is inscribed, Verbum di; his 
spear, Persevancia ; its pennon, Regni ae/esti desiderium, &c. &c. The 
shield is charged with the well-known triangular device, with the enuncia- 
tion of the doctrine of the Trinity, Pater est Deus, &c, Pater non est 
Filius, &c. The knight is clad in hauberk, with a rather long flowing sur- 
coat ; a helmet, in general shape like that in the next woodcut, but not 
so ornamental ; he has chausses of mail ; shield, sword, and spear with 
pennon, and prick spurs ; but there is not sufficient definiteness in the 
details, or character in the drawing, to make it worth while to reproduce 
it. But there is one MS. picture which fully atones for the absence of 
others by its very great merit. It occurs in a small quarto of the last 
quarter of the thirteenth century, which contains the Psalter and Eccle- 
siastical Hymns. Towards the end of the book are several remarkably 
fine full-page drawings, done in outline with a pen, and partially tinted 
with colour ; large, distinct, and done with great spirit and artistic skill. 
The first on the verso of folio 2 1 8 is a king ; on the opposite page is the 
knight, who is here given on a reduced scale ; on the opposite side of the 
page is St. Christopher, and on the next page an archbishop. 

The figure of the knight before us shows very clearly the various details 
of a suit of thirteenth-century armour. In the hauberk will be noticed 
the mode in which the hood is fastened at the side of the head, and the 
way in which the sleeves are continued into gauntlets, whose palms are 
left free from rings, so as to give a firmer grasp. The thighs, it will be 
seen, are protected by haut-de-chausses, which are mailed only in the 
exposed parts, and not on the seat. The legs have chausses of a different 
kind of armour. In the MS. drawings we often find various parts of the 
armour thus represented in different ways, and, as we have already said, we 
are sometimes tempted to think the unskilful artist has only used different 
modes of representing the same kind of mail. But here the drawing is so 
careful, and skilful, and self-evidently accurate, that we cannot doubt 
that the defence of the legs is really of a different kind of armour from the 
mail of the hauberk and haut-de-chausses. The surcoat is of graceful fashion, 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

and embroidered with crosses, which appear also on the pennon, and one 
of them is used as an ornamental genouilliere on the shoulder. The helmet 
is elaborately and very elegantly ornamented. The attitude of the figure 
is spirited and dignified, and the drawing unusually good. Altogether we 
do not know a finer representation of a knight of this century. 

Knight of the latter fart of the Thirteenth Century. 

A few, but very valuable, authorities are to be found in the sculptural 
monumental effigies of this period. The best of them will be found in 
Stothard's "Monumental Effigies," and his work not only brings these 
examples together, and makes them easily accessible to the student, but it 
has this great advantage, that Stothard well understood his subject, and 
gives every detail with the most minute accuracy, and also elucidates 
obscure points of detail. Those in the Temple Church, that of William 

Thirteenth Century Arms and Armour. 


Longespee in Salisbury Cathedral, and that of Aymer de Valence in West- 
minster Abbey, are the most important of the series. Perhaps, after all, 
the only important light they add to that already obtained from the MSS. 
is, they help us to understand the fabrication of the mail-armour, by giving 
it in fac-simile relief. There are also a few foreign MSS., easily accessible, 
in the library of the British Museum, which the artist student will do well 
to consult ; but he must remember that 
some of the peculiarities of costume 
which he will find there are foreign 
fashions, and are not to be introduced 
in English subjects. For example, the 
MS. Cotton, Nero, c iv., is a French MS. 
of about 1 1 25 A.D., which contains some 
rather good drawings of military subjects. 
The Additional MS. 14,789, of German 
execution, written in n 28 a.d., contains 
military subjects ; among them is a figure 
of Goliath, in which the Philistine has a 
hauberk of chain mail, and chausses of 
jazerant work, like the knight in the last 
woodcut. The Royal MS. 20 D. L, is a 
French MS., very full of valuable military 
drawings, executed probably at the close 
of the thirteenth century, belonging, 
however, in the style of its Art and 
costume, rather to the early part of the 
next period than to that under con- 
sideration. The MS. AddiL 17,687, 
contains fine and valuable German drawings, full of military authorities, of 
about the same period as the French MS. last mentioned 

The accompanying wood-cut represents various peculiarities of the 
armour in use towards the close of the thirteenth century. It is taken 
from the Sloane MS. 346, which is a metrical Bible. In the original 
drawing a female figure is kneeling before the warrior, and there is an 

Knight and Afen-at-Arms of the end of 
the Thirteenth Century. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

inscription over the picture, Abygail placet iram regis David (Abigail 
appeases the anger of King David). So that this group of a thirteenth- 
century knight and his men-at-arms is intended by the mediaeval artist to 
represent David and his followers on the march to revenge the churlishness 
of Nabal. The reader will notice the round plates at the elbows and 
knees, which are the first visible introduction of plate armour — breast- 
plates, worn under the hauberk, had been occasionally used from Saxon 
times. He will observe, too, the leather gauntlets which David wears, 
and the curious defences for the shoulders called ailettes : also that the 
shield is hung round the neck by its strap (guige), and the sword-belt 
round the hips, while the surcoat is girded round the waist by a silken 

Knight of the end of the Thirteenth Century. 

cord. The group is also valuable for giving us at a glance three different 
fashions of helmet. David has a conical bascinet, with a movable visor. 
The man immediately behind him wears an iron hat, with a wide rim and 
a raised crest, which is not at all unusual at this period. The other two 
men wear the globular helmet, the most common head-defence of the time. 
The next cut is a spirited little sketch of a mounted knight, from the 
same MS. The horse, it may be admitted, is very like those which 
children draw nowadays, but it has more life in it than most of the draw- 
ings of that day ; and the way in which the knight sits his horse is much 

Thirteenth Century Arms and Armour, 337 

more artistic. The picture shows the equipment of the knight very clearly, 
and it is specially valuable as an early example of horse trappings, and as 
an authority for the shape of the saddle, with its high pommel and croupe 
The inscrption over the picture is, Tharbis defendit urban Sabea ab impug- 
nanti Moysi; and over the head of this cavalier is his name Moysa — 
Moses, as a knight of the end of the thirteenth century ! 



N arriving at the fourteenth century, we have reached the very 
heart of our subject. For this century was the period of the 
great national wars with France and Scotland ; it was the time 
when the mercenaries raised in the Italian wars first learnt, and then taught 
the world, the trade of soldier and trained their captains in the art of war; 
it was the period when the romantic exploits and picturesque trappings of 
chivalry were in their greatest vogue ; the period when Gothic art was at 
its highest point of excellence. It was a period, too, of which we have 
ample knowledge from public records and serious histories, from romance 
writers in poetry and prose, from Chaucer and Froissart, from MS. illu- 
minations and monumental effigies. Our difficulty amid such a profusion 
of material is to select that which will be most serviceable to our special 

Let us begin with some detailed account of the different kinds and 
fashions of armour and equipment. In the preceding period, it has been 
seen, the most approved knightly armour was of mail. The characteristic 
feature of the armour of the fourteenth century is the intermixture of mail 
and plate. We see it first in small supplementary defences of plate intro- 
duced to protect the elbow and knee-joints. Probably it was found that 
the rather heavy and unpliable sleeve and hose of mail pressed incon- 
veniently upon these joints ; therefore the armourer adopted the expedient 
which proved to be the " thin end of the wedge " which gradually brought 
plate armour into fashion. He cut the mail hose in two ; the lower part, 
which was then like a modern stocking, protected the leg, and the upper 

Introduction of Plate Armour. 


part protected the thigh, each being independently fastened below and 
above the knee, leaving the knee unprotected. Then he hollowed a piece 
of plate iron so as to form a cap for the knee, called technically a 
genoutilierc, within which the joint could work freely without chafing or 
pressure ; perhaps it was padded or stuffed so as to deaden the effect of a 
blow ; and it was fashioned so as effectually to cover all the part left un- 
defended by the mail. The sleeve of the hauberk was cut in the same 

Men-at-Arms, Fourteenth Century. 

way, and the elbow was defended by a cap of plate-iron called a coudibrt. 
Early examples of these two pieces of plate armour will be seen in the 
later illustrations of our last chapter, for they were introduced a iittle 
before the end of the thirteenth century. The two pieces of plate were 
introduced simultaneously, and they appear together in the woodcut of 
David and his men in our last chapter ; but we often find the genouilliere 
used while the arm is still defended only by the sleeve of the hauberk, as 

34<^> The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

in the first woodcut in the present chapter, and again in the cut on p. 348. 
It is easy to see that the pressure of the chausses of mail upon the knee in 
riding would be constant and considerable, and a much more serious 
inconvenience than the pressure upon the elbow in the usaal attitude of 
the arm. 

Next, round plates of metal, called placates or roundels, were applied to 
shield the armpits from a thrust ; and sometimes they were used also at the 
elbow to protect the inner side of the joint where, for the convenience of 
motion, it was destitute of armour. An example of a roundel at the 
shoulder will be seen in one of the men-at-arms in the woodcut on p. 339. 
Another curious fashion which very generally prevailed at this time — that is, 
at the close of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century — was 
the ailette. It was a thin, oblong plate of metal, which was attached behind 
the shoulder. It would to some extent deaden the force of a blow directed 
at the neck, but it would afford so inartificial and ineffective a defence, 
that it is difficult to believe it was intended for anything more than an 
ornament. It is worn by the foremost knight in the cut on p. 335. 

Perhaps the next great improvement was to protect the foot by a shoe 
made of plates of iron overlapping, like the shell of a lobster, the sole 
being still of leather. Then plates of iron, made to fit the limb, were 
applied to the shin and the upper part of the forearm, and sometimes a 
small plate is applied to the upper part of the arm in the place most 
exposed to a blow. Then the shin and forearm defences were enlarged so 
as to enclose the limb completely, opening at the side with a hinge, and 
closing with straps or rivets. Then the thigh and the upper arm were 
similarly enclosed in plate. 

It is a little difficult to trace exactly the changes which took place in the 
body defences, because all through this period it was the fashion to wear a 
surcoat of some kind, which usually conceals all that was worn beneath it. 
It is however probable that at an early period of the introduction of plate 
a breastplate was introduced, which was worn over the hauberk, and 
perhaps fastened to it. Then, it would seem, a back plate was added also, 
worn over the hauberk. Next, the breast and back plate were made to 
enclose the whole of the upper part of the body, while only a skirt of mail 

Armour of Mixed Mail and Plate. 34 1 

remained ; i.e. a garment of the same shape as the hauberk was worn, un- 
protected with mail, where the breast and back plate would come upon it, 
but still having its skirt covered with rings. In an illumination in the MS., 
is a picture of a knight putting off his jupon, in which the " pair of plates," 
as Chaucer calls them in a quotation hereafter given, is seen, tinted blue 
(steel colour), with a skirt of mail. At this time the helmet had a fringe 
of mail, called the camail, attached to its lower margin, which fell over the 
body armour, and defended the neck. It is clearly seen in the hindermost 
knight of the group in the woodcut on p. 339, and in the effigy of John of 
Eltham, on p. 342. 

It is not difficult to see the superiority of defence which plate afforded 
over mail. The edge of sword or axe would bite upon the mail ; if the 
rings were unbroken, still the blow would be likely to bruise ; and in 
romances it is common enough to hear of huge cantles of mail being hewn 
out by their blows, and the doughty champions being spent with loss ot 
blood. But many a blow would glance off quite harmless from the curved 
and polished, and well-tempered surface of plate ; so that it would probably 
require not only a more dexterous blow to make the edge of the weapon 
bite at all on the plate, but also a harder blow to cut into it so as to wound. 
In " Prince Arthur " we read of Sir Tristram and Sir Governale — " they 
avoided their horses, and put their shields before them, and they strake 
together with bright swords like men that were of might, and either 
wounded other wondrous sore, so that the blood ran upon the grass, and 
of their harness they had hewed off many pieces." And again, in a com- 
bat between Sir Tristram and Sir Elias, after a course in which " either 
smote other so hard that both horses and knights went to the earth," " they 
both lightly rose up and dressed their shields on their shoulders, with 
naked swords in their hands, and they dashed together like as there had 
been a flaming fire about them. Thus they traced and traversed, and 
hewed on helms and hauberks, and cut away many pieces and cantles of 
their shields, and either wounded other passingly sore, so that the hot 
blood fell fresh upon the earth." 

We have said that a surcoat of some kind was worn throughout this 
period, but it differed in shape at different times, and had different names 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

applied to it. In the early part of the time of which we are now speak- 
ing, i.e. when the innovation of plate armour was beginning, the loose 
and flowing surcoat of the thirteenth century was still used, and is very 
clearly seen in the nearest of the group of knights in woodcut on p. 339. It 
was usually of linen or silk, sleeveless, reached halfway between the knee 
and ankle, was left unstiffened to fall in loose folds, 
except that it was girt by a silk cord round the 
waist, and its skirts flutter behind as the wearer 
gallops on through the air. The change of taste 
was in the direction of shortening the skirts of the 
surcoat, and making it scantier about the body, 
and stiffening it so as to make it fit the person with- 
out folds ; at last it was tightly fitted to the breast 
and back plate, and showed their outline; and it 
was not uncommonly covered with embroidery, 
often of the armorial bearings of the wearer. The 
former garment is properly called a surcoat, and 
the latter a j upon; the one is characteristic of the 
greater part of the thirteenth century, the latter of 
the greater part of the fourteenth. But the fashion 
did not change suddenly from the one to the other ; 
there was a transitional phase called the cyclas, 
which may be briefly described. The cyclas opened 
up the sides instead of in front, and it had this 
curious peculiarity, that the front skirt was cut 
much shorter than the hind skirt— behind it 
reached to the knees, but in front not very much below the hips. The 
fashion has this advantage for antiquarians, that the shortness of the 
front skirt allows us to see a whole series of military garments beneath, 
which are hidden by the long surcoat and even by the shorter jupon, A 
suit of armour of this period is represented in the Roman d' Alexandre 
(Bodleian Library), at folio 143 v., and elsewhere in the MS. The re- 
mainder of the few examples of the cyclas which remain, and which, 
so tar as our observation extends, are all in sepulchral monuments, range 

Fourteenth Century Armour. 343 

between the years 1325 and 1335, the shortening of the cyclas enables 
us to see. We have chosen for our illustration the sepulchral effigy 
in Westminster Abbey of John of Eltham, the second son of King 
Edward II., who died in 1334. Here we see first and lowest the 
hacqueton ; then the hauberk of chain mail, slightly pointed in front, 
which was one of the fashions of the time, as we see it also in the monu- 
mental brasses of Sir John de Creke, at Westley- Waterless, Cambridge- 
shire, and of Sir J. D'Aubernoun, the younger, at Stoke D'Abernon, 
Surrey ; over the hauberk we see the ornap^-M^ted gambeson ; and over all 
the cyclas. It is a question whether knights generally wore this whole 
series of defences, but the monumental effigies are usually so accurate in 
their representations of actual costume, that we must conclude that at 
least on occasions of state solemnity they were all worn. In the illustra- 
tion it will be seen that the cyclas is confined, not by a silk cord, but by a 
narrow belt, while the sword-belt of the thirteenth century is still worn in 
addition. The jupon is seen in the two knights tilting, in the woodcut on p. 
348. In the knight on the left will be seen how it fits tightly, and takes the 
globular shape of the breastplate. It will be noticed that on this knight 
the skirt of the jupon is scalloped, on the other it is plain. The jupon 
was not girded with a silk cord or a narrow belt ; it was made to fit tight 
without any such fastening. The sword-belt worn with it differs in two 
important respects from that worn previously. It does not fall diagonally 
across the person, but horizontally over the hips ; and it is not merely a 
leather belt ornamented, but the leather foundation is completely con- 
cealed by plates of metal in high relief, chased, gilt, and filled with enamels, 
forming a gorgeous decoration. The general form will be seen in the 
woodcut on p. 350, but its elaboration and splendour are better understood 
on an examination of some of the sculptured effigies, in which the forms 
of the metal plates are preserved in facsimile, with traces of their gilding 
and colour still remaining. 

It would be easy, from the series of sculptured effigies in relief and 
monumental brasses, to give a complete chronological view of these various 
changes which were continually progressing throughout the fourteenth cen- 
tury. But this has already been done in the very accessible works by 

344 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

Stothard, the Messrs. Waller, Mr. Boutell, and Mr. Haines, especially 
devoted to monumental effigies and brasses. It will be more in accord- 
ance with the plan we have laid down for ourselves, if we take from the 
less known illuminations of MSS. some subjects which will perhaps be 
less clear and fine in detail, but will have more life and character than the 
formal monumental effigies. 

We must, however, pause to mention some other kinds of armour 
which were sometimes used in place of armour of steel. And first we 
may mention leather. Leather was always more or less used as a 
cheap kind of defence, from the Saxon leather tunic with the hair left 
on it, down to the buff jerkin of the time of the Commonwealth, and 
even to the thick leather gauntlets and jack boots of the present Life 
Guardsman. But at the time of which we are speaking pieces of armour 
of the same shape as those we have been describing were sometimes made, 
for the sake of lightness, of cuir bouilli instead of metal. Cuir bouilli was, 
as its name implies, leather which was treated with hot water, in such a 
way as to make it assume a required shape; and often it was also im- 
pressed, while soft, with ornamental devices. It is easy to see that in this 
way armour might be made possessing great comparative lightness, and yet 
a certain degree of strength, and capable, by stamping, colouring, and 
gilding, of a high degree of ornamentation. It was a kind of armour 
very suitable for occasions of mere ceremonial, and it was adopted in 
actual combat for parts of the body less exposed to injury ; for instance, it 
seems to be especially used for the defence of the lower half of the legs. 
We shall find presently, in the description of Chaucer's Sire Thopas, the 
knight adventurous, that " his jambeux were of cuirbouly." In external 
form and appearance it would be so exactly like metal armour that it may 
be represented in some of the ornamental effigies and MSS. drawings, 
where it has the appearance of, and is usually assumed to be, metal 
armour. Another form of armour, of which we often meet with examples 
in drawings and effigies, is one in which the piece of armour appears to be 
studded, at more or less distant regular intervals, with small round plates. 
There are two suggestions as to the kind of armour intended. One is, 
that the armour thus represented was a garment of cloth, silk, velvet, or 

Fourteenth Centmy Armour. 345 

other textile material, lined with plates of metal, which are fastened to the 
garment with metal rivets, and that the heads of these rivets, gilt and orna- 
mented, were allowed to be seen powdering the coloured face of the gar- 
ment by way of ornament. Another suggestion is that the garment was 
merely one of the padded and quilted armours which we shall have next 
to describe, in which, as an additional precaution, metal studs were intro- 
duced, much as an oak door is studded with iron bolts. An example of it 
will be seen in the armour of the forearms of King Meliadus in the wood- 
cut on p. 350. Chaucer seems to speak of this kind of defence, in his 
description of Lycurgus at the great tournament in the " Knight's Tale," 
under the name of coat armour : — 

" Instede of cote-armure on his hamais, 
With nayles yelwe and bryght as any gold, 
He had a here's skin cole-blake for old." 

Next we come to the rather large and important series of quilted 
defences. We find the names of the gambeson, hacqueton, and pourpoint, and 
sometimes the jacke. It is a little difficult to distinguish one from the 
other in the descriptions ; and in fact they appear to have greatly resem- 
bled one another, and the names seem often to have been used inter- 
changeably. The gambeson was a sleeved tunic of stout coarse linen, 
stuffed with flax and other common material, and sewn longitudinally. The 
hacqueton was a similar garment, only made of buckram, and stuffed with 
cotton ; stiff from its material, but not so thick and clumsy as the gam- 
beson. The pourpoint was very like the hacqueton, only that it was made of 
finer material, faced with silk, and stitched in ornamental patterns. The 
gambeson and hacqueton were worn under the armour, partly to relieve its 
pressure upon the body, partly to afford an additional defence. Sometimes 
they were worn, especially by the common soldiers, without any other 
armour. The pourpoint was worn over the hauberk, but sometimes it was 
worn alone, the hauberk being omitted for the sake of lightness. The 
jacke, or jacque, was a tunic of stuffed leather, and was usually worn by 
the common soldiers without other armour, but sometimes as light armour 
by knights. 

In the first wood-cut on the next page, from the Romance of King 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

Meliadus, we have a figure which appears to be habited in one of these 
quilted armours, perhaps the hacqueton. There is another figure in the 
same group, in a similar dress, with this difference — in the first the skirt 
seems to fall loose and light, in the second the skirt seems to be stuffed 
and quilted like the body of the garment. At folio 2 14 of the same Romance 
is a squire, attendant upon a knight-errant, who is habited in a similar 

Squire in Hacqueton, 

Sir Robert Shurland. 

hacqueton to that we have represented ; the squires throughout the MS. are 
usually quite unarmed. In the monumental effigy of Sir Robert Shurland, 
who was made a knight-banneret in 1300, we seem to have a curious 
and probably unique effigy of a knight in the gameson. We give a wood- 
cut of it, reduced from Stothard's engraving. The smaller figure of the 
man placed at the feet of the effigy is in the same costume, and affords 
us an additional example. Stothard conjectures that the garment in the 

Fourteenth Ceyitury Armour. 347 

effigy of John of Eltham (1334, a.d.), whose vandyked border appears 
beneath his hauberk, is the buckram of the hacqueton left unstuffed, and 
ornamentally scalloped round the border. In the MS. of King Meliadus, 
at f. si, and again on the other side of the leaf, is a knight, whose red 
jupon, slit up at the sides, is thrown open by his attitude, so that we see 
the skirt of mail beneath, which is silvered to represent metal ; and beneath 
that is a scalloped border of an under habit, which is left white, and, if 
Stothard's conjecture be correct, is another example of the hacqueton under 
the hauberk. But the best representation which we have met with of the 
quilted armours is in the MS. of the Romance of the Rose (Harleian, 4,425), 
at folio 133, where, in a battle scene, one knight is conspicuous among 
the blue steel and red and green jupons of the other knights by a white 
body armour quilted in small squares, with which he wears a steel bascinet 
and ringed camail. He is engraved on p. 389. 

And now to turn to a description of some of the MS. illuminations which 
illustrate this chapter. That on p. 339 is a charming little subject from a 
famous MS. (Royal 2 B. vii.) of the beginning of the Edwardian period, 
which will illustrate half-a-dozen objects besides the mere suit of knightly 
armour. First of all there is the suit of armour on the knight in the fore- 
ground, the hooded hauberk and chausses of mail and genouillieres, the 
chapeau de fer, or war helm, and the surcoat, and the shield. But we get 
also a variety of helmets, different kinds of weapons, falchion and axe, as 
well as sword and spear, and the pennon attached to the spear ; and, in 
addition, the complete horse trappings, with the ornamental crest which 
was used to set off the arching neck and tossing head. Moreover, we 
learn that this variety of arms and armour was to be found in a single 
troop of men-at-arms ; and we see the irregular but picturesque effect 
which such a group presented to the eyes of the monkish illuminator as it 
pranced beneath the gateway into the outer court of the abbey, to seek 
the hospitality which the hospitaller would hasten to offer on behalf of the 

This mixture of armour and weapons is brought before us by Chaucer 
in his description of Palamon's party in the great tournament in the 
" Knight's Tale :"— 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

" And right so ferden they with Palamon, 
With him ther wenten knights many one, 
Som wol ben armed in an habergeon, 
And in a brestplate and in a gipon ; 
And some wol have a pair of plates large ; 
And some wol have a Pruee shield or a targe ; 
And some wol ben armed on his legge's wele, 
And have an axe, and some a mace of stele, 
Ther was no newe guise that it was old, 
Armed they weren, as I have you told, 
Everich after his opinion." 

The illustration here given and that on p. 350 are from a MS. which we 
cannot quote for the first time without calling special attention to it. It is a 
MS. of one of the numerous romances of the King Arthur cycle, the Romance 


of the King Meliadus, who was one of the Companions of the Round Table. 
The book is profusely illustrated with pictures which are invaluable to the 
student of military costume and chivalric customs. They are by different 
hands, and not all of the same date, the earlier series being probably 
about 1350, the later perhaps as late as near the end of the century. In 
both these dates the MS. gives page after page of large-sized pictures 
drawn with great spirit, and illustrating every variety of incident which 

Fourte-enth Century Armour. 349 

could take place in single combat and in tournament, with many scenes 
of civil and domestic life besides. Especially there is page after page in 
which, along the lower portion of the pages, across the whole width of 
the book, there are pictures of tournaments. There is a gallery of spec- 
tators along the top, and in some of these — especially in those at folio 
151 v. and 152, which are sketched in with pen and ink, and left uncoloured 
— there are more of character and artistic drawing than the artists of the 
time are usually believed to have possessed. Beneath this gallery is a 
confused mele'e of knights in the very thickest throng and most energetic 
action of a tournament. The wood-cut on p. 348 represents one out of many 
incidents of a single combat It does not do justice to the drawing, and 
looks tame for want of the colouring of the original ; but it will serve to 
show the armour and equipment of the time. The victor knight is habited 
in a hauberk of banded mail, with gauntlets of plate, and the legs are 
cased entirely in plate. The body armour is covered by. a jupon ; the tilt- 
ing helmet has a knight's chapeau and draper}' carrying the lion crest. The 
armour in the illumination is silvered to represent metal. The knight's 
jupon is red, and the trappings of his helmet red, with a golden lion ; his 
shield bears gules, a lion rampant argent ; the conquered knight's jupon is 
blue, his shield argent, two bandlets gules. We see here the way in which 
the shield was carried, and the long slender spear couched, in the charge. 

The next wood-cut hardly does credit to the charming original. It repre- 
sents the royal knight-errant himself sitting by a fountain, talking with his 
squire. The suit of armour is beautiful, and the face of the knight has 
much character, but very different from the modem conventional type of a 
mediaeval knight-errant. His armour deserves particular examination. He 
wears a hauberk of banded mail ; whether he wears a breastplate, or pair 
of plates, we are unable to see for the jupon, but we can see the hauberk 
which protects the throat above the jupon, and the skirt of it where the 
attitude of the wearer throws the skirt of the jupon open at the side. It 
will be seen that the sleeves of the hauberk are not continued, as in most 
examples, over the hands, or even down to the wrist ; but the forearm is 
defended by studded armour, and the hands by gauntlets which are pro- 
ably of plate. The leg defences are admirably exhibited ; the hose of 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

banded mail, the knee cap, and shin pieces of plate, and the boots of over- 
lapping plates. The helmet also, with its royal crown and curious double 
crest, is worth notice. In the original drawing the whole suit of armour is 
brilliantly executed. The armour is all silvered to represent steel, the 
jupon is green, the military belt gold, the helmet silvered, with its drapery 

A Knight -Errant. 

blue powdered with gold fleurs-de-lis, and its crown, and the fleur-de-lis 
which tenninate its crest, gold. The whole dress and armour of a knight 
of the latter half of the fourteenth century are described for us by Chaucer 
in a few stanzas of his Rime of Sire Thopas : — 
" He didde* next his white lere 
Of cloth of lake fine and clere 
A breche and eke a sherte ; 

• Didde— did on next his white skin. 

Fourteenth Century Armour. 35 1 

And next his shert an haketon, 
And over that an habergeon, 
For percing of his herte. 

And over that a fine hauberk, 
Was all ye wrought of Jewes werk, 

Full strong it was of plate ; 
And over that his coat armoure, 
As white as is the lily floure, 

In which he could debate.* 

TTis jambeux were of cuirboury,t 
His swerde's sheth of ivory, 

His helm of latoun J bright, 
His sadel was of rewel bone, 
His bridle as the sonne shone, 

Or as the mone-light§ 

His sheld was all of gold so red, 
And therein was a bore's hed, 

A charboncle beside ; 
And then he swore on ale and bred, 
How that the geaunt shuld be ded, 

Betide what so betide. 

His spere was of fine cypres, 

That bodeth warre and nothing pees, 

The hed ful sharpe yground. 
His stede was all of dapper gray. 
It goth an amble in the way, 

Ful softely in londe." 

There is so much of character in his squire's face in the same picture, and 

that character so different from our conventional idea of a squire, that we are 

;mpted to give a sketch of it on p. 352, as he leans over the horse's back 

Iking to his master. This MS. affords us a whole gallery of squires attendant 

lpon their knights. At folio 66 v. is one carrying his master's spear and 

* Debate —contend, 
t Cuirbouly — stamped leather. 
% Latoun — brass. 

i Compare Tennyson's description of Sir Lancelot, in the " Lady of Shalot," 
" His gemmy bridle glittered free, 
Like to some branch of stars we see ; 
Hung in the golden galaxy, 
As he rode down to CameloL" 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

shield, who has a round cap with a long feather, like that in the woodcut 
In several other instances the squire rides bareheaded, but has his hood 
hanging behind on his shoulders ready for a cold day or a shower of rain. 
In another place the knight is attended by two squires, one bearing his 
master's tilting helmet on his shoulder, the other carrying his spear and 
shield. In all cases the squires are unarmed, and mature men of rather 
heavy type, different from the gay and gallant youths whom we are apt to 
picture to ourselves as the squires of the days of chivalry attendant on 

The Knight-Errant 's Squire. 
noble knights adventurous. In other cases we see the squires looking on 
very phlegmatically while their masters are in the height of a single 
combat ; perhaps a knight adventurous was not a hero to his squire. But 
again we see the squire starting into activity to catch his master's steed, 
from which he has been unhorsed by an antagonist of greater strength or 
skill, or good fortune. We see him also in the lists at a tournament, hand- 
ing his master a new spear when he has splintered his own on an oppo- 
nent's shield ; or helping him to his feet when he has been overthrown, 
horse and man, under the hoofs of prancing horses. 



jE have no inclination to deny that life is more safe and easy in 
these days than it was in the Middle Ages, but it certainly is less 
picturesque, and adventurous, and joyous. This country then 

presented the features of interest which those among us who have wealth 
and leisure now travel to foreign lands to find. There were vast tracts of 
primeval forest, and wild unenclosed moors and commons, and marshes 
and meres. The towns were surrounded by walls and towers, and the 
narrow streets of picturesque, gabled, timber houses were divided by wide 
spaces of garden and grove, above which rose numerous steeples of 
churches full of artistic wealth. The villages consisted of a group of 
cottages scattered round a wide green, with a village cross in the middle, 
and a maypole beside it And there were stately monasteries in the rich 
valleys ; and castles crowned the hills ; and moated manor-houses lay buried 
their woods ; and hermitages stood by the dangerous fords. The high 
>ads were little more than green lanes with a narrow beaten track in the 
iddle, poached into deep mud in winter ; and the by-roads were bridle- 
iths winding from village to village ; and the costumes of the people were 
picturesque in fashion, bright in colour, and characteristic. The 
pranced along in silks and velvets, in plumed hat, and enamelled belt, and 
gold-hilted sword and spurs, with a troop of armed servants behind him ; 
the abbot, in the robe of his order, with a couple of chaplains, all on 
ambling palfreys ; the friar paced along in serge frock and sandals ; the 
minstrel, in gay coat, sang snatches of lays as he wandered along from hall 
to castle, with a lad at his back carrying his harp or gittem ; the traders 

2 A 

354 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

went from fair to fair, taking their goods on strings of pack horses ; a pilgrim, 
passed now and then, with staff and scrip and cloak ; and, now and then, a 
knight-errant in full armour rode by on his war-horse, with a squire carrying 
his helm and spear. It was a wild land, and the people were rude, and 
the times lawless ; but every mile furnished pictures for the artist, and every 
day offered the chance of adventures. The reader must picture to himself 
the aspect of the country and the manners of the times, before he can 
appreciate the spirit of knight-errantry, to which it is necessary that we 
should devote one of these chapters on the Knights of the Middle Ages. 

The knight-errant was usually some young knight who had been lately 
dubbed, and who, full of courage and tired of the monotony of his father's 
manor-house, set out in search of adventures. We could envy him as, on some 
bright spring morning, he rode across the sounding drawbridge, followed 
by a squire in the person of some young forester as full of animal spirits 
and reckless courage as himself; or, perhaps, by some steady old warrior 
practised in the last French war, whom his father had chosen to take care 
of him. We sigh for our own lost youth as we think of him, with all the 
world before him — the mediaeval world, with all its possibilities of wild 
adventure and romantic fortune ; with caitiff knights to overthrow at spear- 
point, and distressed damsels to succour; and princesses to win as the 
prize of some great tournament ; and rank and fame to gain by prowess 
and daring, under the eye of kings, in some great stricken field. 

The old romances enable us to follow such an errant knight through all 
his travels and adventures ; and the illuminations leave hardly a point in 
the history unillustrated by their quaint but naive and charming pictures. 
Tennyson has taken some of the episodes out of these old romances, and 
filled up the artless but suggestive stories with the rich detail and artistic 
finish which adapt them to our modern taste, and has made them the 
favourite subjects of modern poetry. But he has left a hundred others 
behind ; stories as beautiful, with words and sentences here and there full 
of poetry, destined to supply material for future poems and new subjects 
for our painters. 

It is our business to quote from these romances some of the scenes 
which will illustrate our subject, and to introduce some of the illuminations 

Knights- Errant. 


that will present them to the eye. In selecting the literary sketches, we 
shall use almost exclusively the translation which Sir Thomas Mallory 
made, and Caxton printed, of the cycle of Prince Arthur romances, because 
it comprises a sufficient number for our purpose, and because the language, 
while perfectly intelligible and in the best and most vigorous English, has 
enough of antique style to give the charm which would be wanting if we 

A Squire. 

were to translate the older romances into modern phraseology. In the 
same way we shall content ourselves with selecting pictorial illustrations 
chiefly from MSS. of the fourteenth century, the date &t which many of 
these romances were brought into the form in which they have descended 
to us. 

A knight was known to be a knight-errant by his riding through the 

356 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

peaceful country in full armour, with a single squire at his back, as surely 
as a man is now recognised as a fox-hunter who is seen riding easily along 
the strip of green sward by the roadside in a pink coat and velvet cap. 
" Fair knight," says Sir Tristram, to one whom he had found sitting by a 
fountain, "ye seem for to be a knight-errant by your arms and your 
harness, therefore dress ye to just with one of us :" for this was of course 
inevitable when knights-errant met; the whole passage is worth tran- 
scribing : — " Sir Tristram and Sir Kay rode within the forest a mile or 
more. And at the last Sir Tristram saw before him a likely knight and a 
well-made man, all armed, sitting by a clear fountain, and a mighty horse 
near unto him tied to a great oak, and a man [his squire] riding by him, 
leading an horse that was laden with spears. Then Sir Tristram rode near 
him, and said, ' Fair knight, why sit ye so drooping, for ye seem to be an 
errant knight by your arms and harness, and therefore dress ye to just 
with one of us or with both.' Therewith that knight made no words, but 
took his shield and buckled it about his neck, and lightly he took his horse 
and leaped upon him, and then he took a great spear of his squire, and 
departed his way a furlong." 

And so we read in another place : — " Sir Dinadan spake on high and 
said, ' Sir Knight, make thee ready to just with me, for it is the custom of 
all arrant knights one for to just with another.' ' Sir,' said Sir Epinogris, 
'is that the rule of your arrant knights, for to make a knight to just 
whether he will or not?' 'As for that, make thee ready, for here is for 
me.' And therewith they spurred their horses, and met together so hard 
that Sir Epinogris smote down Sir Dinadan " — and so taught him the truth 
of the adage " that it is wise to let sleeping dogs lie." 

But they did not merely take the chance of meeting one another as they 
journeyed. A knight in quest of adventures would sometimes station him- 
self at a ford or bridge, and mount guard all day long, and let no knight- 
errant pass until he had jousted with him. Thus we read " then they rode 
forth all together, King Mark, Sir Lamorake, and Sir Dinadan, till that 
they came unto a bridge, and at the end of that bridge stood a fair tower. 
Then saw they a knight on horseback, well armed, brandishing a spear, 
crying and proffering himself to just." And again, " When King Mark 

Knights-Errant 357 

and Sir Dinadan had ridden about four miles, they came unto a bridge, 
whereas hoved a knight on horseback, and ready to just. ' So,' said Sir 
Dinadan unto King Mark, ' yonder hoveth a knight that will just, for there 
shall none pass this bridge but he must just with that knight.' " 

And again : " They rode through the forest, and at the last they were 
ware of two pavilions by a priory with two shields, and the one shield was 
renewed with white and the other shield was red. ' Thou shalt not pass 
this way,' said the dwarf, • but first thou must just with yonder knights that 
abide in yonder pavilions that thou seest.' Then was Sir Tor ware where 
two pavilions were, and great spears stood out, and two shields hung on 
two trees by the pavilions." In the same way a knight would take up his 
abode for a few days at a wayside cross where four ways met, in order to 
meet adventures from east, west, north, and south. Notice of adventures 
was sometimes affixed upon such a cross, as we read in " Prince Arthur " : 
" And so Sir Galahad and he rode forth all that week ere they found any 
adventure. And then upon a Sunday, in the morning, as they were departed 
from an abbey, they came unto a cross which departed two ways. And on 
that cross were letters written which said thus : Now ye knights-errant thai 
goeth forth for to seek adventures, see here two ways" &c. 

Wherever they went, they made diligent inquiry for adventures. Thus 
" Sir Launcelot departed, and by adventure he came into a forest. And in 
the midst of a highway he met with a damsel riding on a white palfrey, and 
either saluted other: ' Fair damsel,' said Sir Launcelot, 'know ye in this 
country any adventures ?' • Sir Knight,' said the damsel, ' here are adven- 
tures near at hand, an thou durst prove them.' 'Why should I not prove 
adventures,' said Sir Launcelot, 'as for that cause came I hither?'" And 
on another occasion, we read, Sir Launcelot passed out of the (King 
Arthur's) court to seek adventures, and Sir Ector made him ready 
to meet Sir Launcelot, and as he had ridden long in a great forest, 
he met with a man that was like a forester. — These frequent notices of 
"riding long through a great forest" are noticeable as evidences of the 
condition of the country in those days. — " Fair fellow," said Sir Ector, 
"knowest thou in this country any adventures which be here nigh at hand?" 
" Sir," said the forester, " this country know I well, and here within this 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

mile is a strong manor and well ditched " — not well walled ; it was the 
fashion of the Middle Ages to choose low sites for their manor-houses, and 
to surround them with moats — such moats are still common round old 
manor-houses in Essex — " and by that manor on the left hand is a fair ford 
for horses to drink, and over that ford there groweth a fair tree, and 
thereon hangeth many fair shields that belonged some time unto good 
knights ; and at the bole of the tree hangeth a bason of copper and laten ; 
and strike upon that bason with the end of the spear thrice, and soon after 

Preliminaries of Combat in Green Court of Castl*. 

thou shalt hear good tidings, and else hast thou the fairest grace that many 
a year any knight had that passed through this forest." 

Every castle offered hope, not only of hospitality, but also of a trial of 
arms ; for in every castle there would be likely to be knights and squires 
glad of the opportunity of running a course with bated spears with a new 
and skilful antagonist. Here is a picture from an old MS. which repre- 
sents the preliminaries of such a combat on the green between the castle 
walls and the moat. In many castles there was a special tilting-ground. 
Thus we read, " Sir Percivale passed the water, and when he came unto 

Knights- Errant. 359 

the castle gate, he said to the porter, ' Go thou unto the good knight 
within the castle, and tell him that here is came an errant knight to just 
with him.' ' Sir,' said the porter, • ride ye within the castle, and there shall 
ye find a common place for justing, that lords and ladies may behold 
you.'" At Carisbrook Castle, in the Isle of Wight, the tilting-ground 
remains to this day ; a plot of level green sward, with raised turfed banks 
round it, that at the same time served as the enclosure of the lists, and a 
vantage-ground from which the spectators might see the sport. At Gaws- 
worth, also, the ancient tilting-ground still remains. But in most castles 
of any size, the outer court afforded room enough for a course, and at the 
worst there was the green meadow outside the castle walls. In some castles 
they had special customs ; just as in old-fashioned country-houses one used 
to be told it was " the custom of the house " to do this and that ; so it was 
"the custom of the castle" for every knight to break three lances, for instance, 
or exchange three strokes of sword with the lord — a quondam errant 
knight be sure, thus creating adventures for himself at home when marriage 
and cares of property forbade him to roam in search of them. Thus, in 
the Romance : — " Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan rode forth their way till they 
came to some shepherds and herdsmen, and there they asked if they knew 
any lodging or harbour thereabout" "Forsooth, fair lords," said the 
herdsmen, " nigh hereby is a good lodging in a castle, but such a custom 
there is that there shall no knight be lodged but if he first just with two 
knights, and if ye be beaten, and have the worse, ye shall not be lodged 
there, and if ye beat them, ye shall be well lodged." The Knights of the 
Round Table easily vanquished the two knights of the castle, and were 
hospitably received ; but while they were at table came Sir Palomides, and 
Sir Gaheris, "requiring to have the custom of the castle." "And now," 
said Sir Tristram, " must we defend the custom of the castle, inasmuch as 
we have the better of the lord of the castle." 

Here is the kind of invitation they were sure to receive from gentlemen 
living peaceably on their estates, but sympathising with the high spirit and 
love of adventure which sent young knights a- wandering through their 
woods and meadows, and under their castle walls : — Sir Tristram and Sir 
Gareth " were ware of a knight that came riding against [towards] them 

360 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

unarmed, and nothing about him but a sword ; and when this knight came 
nigh them he saluted them, and they him again. ' Fair knights,' said that 
knight, ' I pray you, inasmuch as ye are knights errant, that ye will come 
and see my castle, and take such as ye find there, I pray you heartily.' 
And so they rode with him to his castle, and there they were brought to 
the hall that was well appareled, and so they were unarmed and set at a 

We have already heard in these brief extracts of knights lodging at 
castles and abbeys : we often find them received at manor-houses. Here 
is one of the most graphic pictures : — " Then Sir Launcelot mounted upon 
his horse and rode into many strange and wild countries, and through 
many waters and valleys, and evil was he lodged. And at the last, by 
fortune, it happened him against a night to come to a poor courtilage, 
and therein he found an old gentleman, which lodged him with a good 
will, and there he and his horse were well cheered. And when time was, 
his host brought him to a fair garret over a gate to his bed. There Sir 
Launcelot unarmed him, and set his harness by him, and went to bed, 
and anon he fell in sleep. So, soon after, there came one on horseback, 
and knocked at the gate in great haste. And when Sir Launcelot 
heard this, he arose up and looked out at the window, and saw by the 
moonlight three knights that came riding after that one man, and all 
three lashed upon him at once with their swords, and that one knight 
turned on them knightly again, and defended himself." And Sir Launcelot, 
like an errant knight, " took his harness and went out at the window by a 
sheet," and made them yield, and commanded them at Whit Sunday to go 
to King Arthur's court, and there yield them unto Queen Guenever's grace 
and mercy ; for so errant knights gave to their lady-loves the evidences of 
their prowess, and did them honour, by sending them a constant succession 
of vanquished knights, and putting them " unto her grace and mercy." 

Very often the good knight in the midst of forest or wild found a night's 
shelter in a friendly hermitage, for hermitages, indeed, were established 
partly to afford shelter to belated travellers. Here is an example. Sir 
Tor asks the dwarf who is his guide, " ' Know ye any lodging ? ' 'I know 
none,' said the dwarf; 'but here beside is an hermitage, and there ye must 

Knight- Errantry. 361 

take such lodging as ye find.' And within a while they came to the 
hermitage and took lodging, and there was grass and oats and bread for 
their horses. Soon it was spread, and full hard was their supper ; but 
there they rested them all the night till on the morrow, and heard a mass 
devoutly, and took their leave of the hermit, and Sir Tor prayed the hermit 
to pray for him, and he said he would, and betook him to God ; and so 
he mounted on horseback, and rode towards Camelot." 

But sometimes not even a friendly hermitage came in sight at the hour 
of twilight, when the forest glades darkened, and the horse track across 
the moor could no longer be seen, and the knight had to betake himself to a 
soldier's bivouac. It is an incident often met with in the Romances. Here 
is a more poetical description than usual : — " And anon these knights 
made them ready, and rode over holts and hills, through forests and woods, 
till they came to a fair meadow full of fair flowers and grass, and there 
they rested them and their horses all that night." Again, "Sir Launcelot 
rode into a forest, and there he met with a gentlewoman riding upon a 
white palfrey, and she asked him, ' Sir Knight, whither ride ye ? ' ■ Cer- 
tainly, damsel,' said Sir Launcelot, ' I wot not whither I ride, but as fortune 

leadeth me.' Then Sir Launcelot asked her where he might be 

harboured that night 'Ye shall none find this day nor night, but to- 
morrow ye shall find good harbour.' And then he commended her unto 
God. Then he rode till he came to a cross, and took that for his host as 
for that night. And he put his horse to pasture, and took off his helm and 
shield, and made his prayers to the cross, that he might never again fall 
into deadly sin, and so he laid him down to sleep, and anon as he slept it 
befel him that he had a vision," with which we will not trouble the reader ; 
but we commend the incident to any young artist in want of a subject for 
a picture : the wayside cross where the four roads meet in the forest, the 
gnarled tree-trunks with their foliage touched with autumn tints, and the 
green bracken withering into brown and yellow and red, under the level 
rays of the sun which fling alternate bars of light and shade across the 
scene; and the noble war-horse peacefully grazing on the short sweet 
forest grass, and the peerless knight in glorious gilded arms, with his 
helmet at his feet, and his great spear leaned against a tree-trunk, kneeling 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

before the cross, with his grave noble face, and his golden hair gleaming in 
the sun-light, "making his prayers that he might never again fall into 
deadly sin." 

In the old monumental brasses in which pictures of the knightly costume 
are preserved to us with such wonderful accuracy and freshness, it is very 
common to find the knight represented as lying with his tilting helm under 
his head by way of pillow. One would take it for a mere artistic arrange- 
ment for raising the head of the recumbent figure, and for introducing this 
important portion of his costume, but that the Romances tell us that 
knights did actually make use of their helm for a pillow ; a hard pillow, 
no doubt — but we have all heard of the veteran who kicked from under his 

Knights, Damsel, and Squire. 

son's head the snowball which he had rolled together for a pillow at his 
bivouac in the winter snow, indignant at his degenerate effeminacy. Thus 
we read of Sir Tristram and Sir Palomides, " They mounted upon their horses, 
and rode together into the forest, and there they found a fair well with 
clear water burbelling. ' Fair Sir,' said Sir Tristram, ' to drink of that water 
have I a lust.' And then they alighted from their horses, and then were 
they ware by them where stood a great horse tied to a tree, and ever he 
neighed, and then were they ware of a fair knight armed under a tree, lack- 
ing no piece of harness, save his helm lay under his head. Said Sir Tris- 
tram, ' Yonder lieth a fair knight, what is best to do ? ' ' Awake him,' said 
Sir Palomides. So Sir Tristram waked him with the end of his spear.'* 

Knight- Errantry. 363 

They had better have let him be, for the knight, thus roused, got him to 
horse and overthrew them both. Again, we read how " Sir Launcelot bad 
his brother, Sir Lionel, to make him ready, for we two, said he, will seek 
adventures. So they mounted upon their horses, armed at all points, and 
rode into a deep forest, and after they came into a great plain, and then 
the weather was hot about noon, and Sir Launcelot had great lust to sleep. 
Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree that stood by a hedge, and 
said, ' Brother, yonder is a fair shadow 5 there may we rest us, and our 
horses.' 'It is well said, fair brother,' said Sir Launcelot, 'for all the 
seven year I was not so sleepy as I am now.' And so they alighted there, 
and tied their horses unto sundry trees, and so Sir Launcelot laid him 
down under an apple-tree, and laid his helm under his head. And Sir 
Lionel waked while he slept." 

The knight did not, however, always trust to chance for shelter, and risk 
a night in the open air. Sometimes we find he took the field in this mimic 
warfare with a baggage train, and had his tent pitched for the night wher- 
ever night overtook him, or camped for a few days wherever a pleasant 
glade, or a fine prospect, or an agreeable neighbour, tempted him to pro- 
long his stay. And he would picket his horse hard by, and thrust his spear 
into the ground beside the tent door, and hang his shield upon it. Thus 
we read : — " Now turn we unto Sir Launcelot, that had long been riding 
in a great forest, and at last came into a low country, full of fair rivers and 
meadows, and afore him he saw a long bridge, and three pavilions stood 
thereon of silk and sendal of divers hue, and without the pavilions hung 
three white shields on truncheons of spears, and great long spears stood 
upright by the pavilions, and at every pavilion's door stood three fresh 
squires, and so Sir Launcelot passed by them, and spake not a word." 
We may say here that it was not unusual for people in fine weather to pitch 
a tent in the courtyard or garden of the castle, and live there instead of 
indoors, or to go a-field and pitch a little camp in some pleasant place, 
and spend the time in justing and feasting, and mirth and minstrelsy. We 
read in one of the Romances how " the king and queen — King Arthur 
and Queen Guenever, to wit — made their pavilions and their tents to be 
pitched in the forest, beside a river, and there was daily hunting, for there 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

were ever twenty knights ready for to just with all them that came in at 
that time." And here, in the woodcut below, is a picture of the scene. 

Usually, perhaps, there was not much danger in these adventures of a 
knight-errant. There was a fair prospect of bruises, and a risk of broken 
bones if he got an awkward fall, but not more risk perhaps than in the 
modern hunting-field. Even if the combat went further than the usual 
three courses with bated spears, if they did draw swords and continue the 
combat on foot, there was usually no more real danger than in a duel of 
German students. But sometimes cause of anger would accidentally 

King, &c, in Pavilion before Castle. 

rise between two errant knights, or the combat begun in courtesy would 
fire their hot blood, and they would resolve " worshipfully to win worship, 
or die knightly on the field," and a serious encounter would take place. 
There were even some knights of evil disposition enough to take delight 
in making every combat a serious one ; and some of the adventures in which 
we take most interest relate how these bloodthirsty bullies, attacking in 
ignorance some Knight of the Round Table, got a well-deserved blood- 
letting for their pains. 

We must give one example of a combat — rather a long one, but it com- 
bines many different points of interest. " So as they (Merlin and King 

Knight- Errantry. 


Arthur) went thus talking, they came to a fountain, and a rich pavilion by 
it. Then was King Arthur aware where a knight sat all armed in a chair. 
* Sir Knight,' said King Arthur, ' for what cause abidest thou here, that 
there may no knight ride this way, but if he do just with thee ; leave that 
custom.' ' This custom,' said the knight, ' have I used, and will use 
maugre who saith nay, and who is grieved with my custom, let him amend 
it that will.' ' I will amend it,' saith King Arthur. ' And I shall defend 
it,' saith the knight. Anon he took his horse, and dressed his shield, and 
took a spear ; and they met so hard either on other's shield, that they 
shivered their spears. Therewith King Arthur drew his sword. ' Nay, 
not so,' saith the knight, ' it is fairer that we twain run more together *ith 

Knights Justing. 

sharp spears.' ' I will well,' said King Arthur, * an I had any more 
spears.' ' I have spears enough,' said the knight. So there came a squire, 
and brought two good spears, and King Arthur took one, and he another ; 
so they spurred their horses, and came together with all their might, that 
either break their spears in their hands. Then King Arthur set hand to 
his sword. ' Nay,' said the knight, ' ye shall do better ; ye are a passing 
good juster as ever I met withal ; for the love of the high order of knight- 
hood let us just it once again.' ' I assent me,' said King Arthur. Anon 
there were brought two good spears, and each knight got a spear, and 
therewith they ran together, that King Arthur's spear broke to shivers. 
But the knight hit him so hard in the middle of the shield, that horse 

366 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

and man fell to the earth, wherewith King Arthur was sore angered, and 
drew out his sword, and said, ' I will assay thee, Sir Knight, on foot, 
for I have lost the honour on horseback.' • I will be on horseback,' said 
the knight. Then was King Arthur wrath, and dressed his shield towards 
him with his sword drawn. When the knight saw that, he alighted for 
him, for he thought it was no worship to have a knight at such advantage, 
he to be on horseback, and the other on foot, and so alighted, and dressed 
himself to King Arthur. Then there began a strong battle with many great 
strokes, and so hewed with their swords that the cantels flew on the field, 
and much blood they bled both, so that all the place where they fought 
was all bloody ; and thus they fought long and rested them, and then they 
went to battle again, and so hurtled together like two wild boars, that 
either of them fell to the earth. So at the last they smote together, that 
both their swords met even together. But the sword of the knight smote 
King Arthur's sword in two pieces, wherefore he was heavy. Then said 
the knight to the king, ' Thou art in my danger, whether me list to slay 
thee or save thee ; and but thou yield thee as overcome and recreant, thou 
shalt die.' 'As for death/ said King Arthur, 'welcome be it when it 
cometh, but as to yield me to thee as recreant, I had liever die than be so 
shamed.' And therewithal the king leapt upon Pelinore, and took him 
by the middle, and threw him down, and rased off his helmet. When 
the knight felt that he was a dread, for he was a passing big man of might ; 
and anon he brought King Arthur under him, and rased off his helmet, 
and would have smitten off his head. Therewithal came Merlin, and said, 
' Knight, hold thy hand.' " 

Happy for the wounded knight if there were a religious house at hand, 
for there he was sure to find kind hospitality and such surgical skill as the 
times afforded. King Bagdemagus had this good fortune when he had 
been wounded by Sir Galahad. "I am sore wounded," said he, " and 
full hardly shall I escape from the death. Then the squire fet [fetched] 
his horse, and brought him with great pain to an abbey. Then was he 
taken down softly and unarmed, and laid in a bed, and his wound was 
looked into, for he lay there long and escaped hard with his life." So 
Sir Tristram, in his combat with Sir Marhaus, was so sorely wounded, 

Knight- Errantry. 367 

• that unneath he might recover, and lay at a nunnery half a year." Such 
adventures sometimes, no doubt, ended fatally, as in the case of the 
unfortunate Sir MarhauB, and there was a summary conclusion to his 
adventures ; and there was nothing left but to take him home and bury 
him in his parish church, and hang his sword and helmet over his tomb. 
Many a knight would be satisfied with the series of adventures which 
finished by laying him on a sick bed for six months, with only an ancient 
nun for his nurse; and as soon as he was well enough he would get 
himself conveyed home on a horse litter, a sadder and a wiser man. The 
modern romances have good mediaeval authority, too, for making marriage 
a natural conclusion of their three volumes of adventures; we have no 
less authority for it than that of Sir Launcelot : — " Now, damsel," said he, 
at the conclusion of an adventure, " will ye any more service of me?" 
" Nay, sir," said she at this time, " but God preserve you, wherever ye 
go or ride, for the courtliest knight thou art, and meekest to all ladies 
and gentlewomen that now liveth. But, Sir Knight, one thing me thinketh 
that ye lack, ye that are a knight wifeless, that ye will not love some 
maiden or gentlewoman, for I could never hear say that ye loved any of 
no manner degree, wherefore many in this country of high estate and low 
make great sorrow." " Fair damsel," said Sir Launcelot, " to be a wedded 
man I think never to be, for if I were, then should I be bound to tarry 
with my wife, and leave arms and tournaments, battles and adventures." 

We have only space left for a few examples of the quaint and poetical 
phrases that, as we have said, frequently occur in these Romances, some 
of which Tennyson has culled, and set like uncut mediaeval gems in 
his circlet of " Idyls of the King." In the account of the great battle 
between King Arthur and his knights against the eleven kings "and 
their chivalry," we read "they were so courageous, that many knights 
shook and trembled for eagerness," and " they fought together, that the 

* In the MS. Royal, 1,699, is a picture in which are represented a sword and hunting- 
horn hung over a tomb. The helmet, sword, and shield of Edward the Black Prince 
still hang over his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral ; Henry IV. 's saddle and helmet over 
his tomb in Westminster Abbey ; and in hundreds of parish churches helmets, swords, 
gauntlets, spurs, &c, still hang over the tombs of mediaeval knights. 

368 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

sound rang by the water and the wood," and " there was slain that morrow- 
tide ten thousand of good men's bodies." The second of these expres- 
sions is a favourite one ; we meet with it again : " when King Ban came 
into the battle, he came in so fiercely, that the stroke resounded again 
from the water and the wood." Again we read, King Arthur "com- 
manded his trumpets to blow the bloody sounds in such wise that the 
earth trembled and dindled." He was "a mighty man of men ; " and " all 
men of worship said it was merry to be under such a chieftain, that would 
put bis person in adventure as other poor knights did." 



•N the British Museum are two volumes containing a rather large 
number of illuminated pictures which have been cut out of 
MSS., chiefly of the early fourteenth century, by some collector 
who did not understand how much more valuable they would have been, 
even as pictures, if left each by itself in the appropriate setting of its 
black letter page, than when pasted half-a-dozen together in a scrap-book. 
That they are severed from the letterpress which they were intended to 
illustrate is of the less importance, because they seem all to be illustrations 
of scenes in romances, and it is not difficult to one who is well versed in 
those early writings either to identify the subjects or to invent histories for 
them. Each isolated picture affords a subject in which an expert, turning 
the book over and explaining it to an amateur, would find material for a 
little lecture on mediaeval art and architecture, costume, and manners. 

In presenting to the reader the subjects which illustrate this chapter, we 
find ourselves placed by circumstances in the position of being obliged to 
treat them like those scrap-book pictures of which we have spoken, viz., as 
isolated pictures, illustrating generally our subject of the Knights of the 
Middle Ages, needing each its independent explanation. 

The first subject represents a scene from some romance, in which the 
good knight, attended by his squire, is guided by a damsel on some 
adventure. As in the scene which we find in Caxton's " Prince Arthur " : 
" And the good knight, Sir Galahad, rode so long, till that he came that 
night to the castle of Carberecke ; and it befel him that he was benighted 
in an hermitage. And when they were at rest there came a gentlewoman 

s B 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

knocking at the door, and called Sir Galahad, and so the hermit came to 
the door to ask what she would. Then she called the hermit, Sir Ulfric, 
'lama gentlewoman that would speak with the knight that is with you.' 
Then the good man awaked Sir Galahad, and bade him rise and speak 
' with a gentlewoman which seemeth hath great need of you.' Then Sir 
Galahad went to her, and asked what she would. ' Sir Galahad,' said she, 
' I will that you arm you and mount upon your horse and follow me, for 
I will show you within these three days the highest adventure that ever 
knight saw. Anon, Sir Galahad armed him, and took his horse and com- 

Lady, Knight, and Squire. 

mended him to God, and bade the gentlewoman go, and he would follow 
her there as she liked. So the damsel rode as fast as her palfrey might 
gallop till that she came to the sea." 

Here then we see the lady ambling through the forest, and she 
rides as ladies rode in the middle ages, and as they still ride, like female 
centaurs, in the Sandwich Islands. She turns easily in her saddle, 
though going at a good pace, to carry on an animated conversation with 
the knight. He, it will be seen, is in hauberk and hood of banded mail, 
with the curious ornaments called ailettes — little wings — at his shoulders. 
He seems to have genouillieres — knee-pieces of plate ; but it is doubtful 
whether he has also plate armour about the leg, or whether the artist has 

Knight- Errantry. 


omitted the lines which would indicate that the legs were, as is more pro- 
bably the case, also protected by banded mail. He wears the prick spur 3 
and his body-armour is protected from sun and rain by the surcoat. Behind 
him prances his squire. The reader will not fail to notice the character 
which the artist has thrown into his attitude and the expression of his features. 
It will be seen that he is not armed, but wears the ordinary civil costume, 
with a hood and hat ; he carries his master's spear, and the shield is sus- 
pended at his back by its guige or strap ; its hollow shape and the rampant 
lion emblazoned on it will not be overlooked. 

Romance writers are sometimes accused of forgetting that their heroes 
are human, and need to eat and drink and sleep. But this is hardly true 
of the old romancers, who, in relating knightly adventures, did not draw 

-? — V 

Knight at Supper. 

upon their imagination, but described the things which were continually 
happening about them ; and the illuminators in illustrating the romances 
drew from the life — the life of their own day — and this it is which makes 
their pictures so naive and truthful in spite of their artistic defects, and so 
valuable as historical authorities. In the engraving above is a subject 
which would hardly have occurred to modern romancer or illustrator. 
The crowd of tents tells us that the scene is cast in the " tented field," 
either of real war or of the mimic war of some great tournament. The 

37 2 The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

combat of the day is over. The modern romancer would have dropped 
the curtain for the day, to be drawn up again next morning when the 
trumpets of the heralds called the combatants once more to the field. 
Our mediaeval illuminator has given us a charming episode in the story. 
He has followed the good knight to his pavilion pitched in the meadow 
hard by. The knight has doffed his armour, and taken his bath, and put 
on his robes of peace, and heard vespers, and gone to supper. The lighted 
candles show that it is getting dusk. It is only by an artistic license that 
the curtains of the tent are drawn aside to display the whole interior ; in 
reality they were close drawn ; these curtains are striped of alternate 
breadths of gay colours — gold and red and green and blue. Any one who 
has seen how picturesque a common bell tent, pitched on the lawn, looks 
from the outside, when one has been tempted by a fine summer evening to 
stay out late and " have candles," will be able to perceive how picturesque 
the striped curtains of this pavilion would be, how eminently picturesque 
the group of such pavilions here indicated, with the foliage of trees over- 
head and the grey walls and towers of a mediaeval town in the background, 
with the stars coming out one by one among the turrets and spires sharply 
defined against the fading sky. 

The knight, like a good chevalier and humane master, has first seen his 
war-horse groomed and fed. And what a sure evidence that the picture is 
from the life is this introduction of the noble animal sharing the shelter of 
the tent of his master, who waits for supper to be served. The furniture of 
the table is worth looking at — the ample white table-cloth, though the 
table is, doubtless, only a board on trestles ; and the two candlesticks of 
massive and elegant shape, show that the candlesticks now called altar- 
candlesticks are only of the ordinary domestic mediaeval type, obsolete 
now in domestic use, but still retained, like so many other ancient fashions, 
in ecclesiastical use. There, too, are the wine flagon and cup, and the 
salt between them ; the knife is at the knight's right hand. We almost ex- 
pect to see the squire of the last picture enter from behind, bearing aloft in 
both hands a fat capon on an ample pewter platter. 

The little subject which is next engraved will enable us to introduce 
from the Romance of Prince Arthur a description of an adventure and a 

Knight- Errantry. 


graphic account of the different turns and incidents of a single combat, 
told in language which is rich in picturesque obsolete words. "And so 
they rode forth a great while till they came to the borders of that country, 
and there they found a full fair village, with a strong bridge like a fortress. * 
And when Sir Launcelot and they were at the bridge, there start forth before 
them many gentlemen and yeomen, which said, ' Fair lord, ye may not 
pass over this bridge and this fortress but one of you at once, therefore 
choose which of you shall enter within this bridge first/ Then Sir 
Launcelot proffered himself first to enter within this bridge. ' Sir,' said 


Defending the Bridge. 

Sir La Cote Male Taile, ■ I beseech you let me enter first within this 
fortress, and if I speed well I will send for you, and if it happen that 1 be 
slain there it goeth ; and if so be that I am taken prisoner then may ye 
come and rescue me.' ' I am loath,' said Sir Launcelot, * to let you take 
this passage.' ' Sir,' said he, ' I pray you let me put my body in this 
adventure.' ' Now go your way,' said Sir Launcelot, ' and God be your 
speed.' So he entered, and anon there met with him two brethren, the 
one hight Sir Pleine de Force and that other hight Sir Pleine de Amours ; 
and anon they met with Sir La Cote Male Taile, and first Sir La Cote Male 
Taile smote down Sir Pleine de Force, and soon after he smote down Sir 

• Probably a bridge with a tower to defend the approach to it. 

374 The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

Pleine de Amours ; and then they dressed themselves to their shields and 
swords, and so they bade Sir La Cote Male Taile alight, and so he did, 
and there was dashing and foining with swords. And so they began full 
hard to assay Sir La Cote Tale Maile, and many great wounds they gave 
him upon his head and upon his breast and upon his shoulders. And as 
he might ever among he gave sad strokes again. And then the two 
brethren traced and traversed for to be on both hands of Sir La Cote Male 
Taile. But by fine force and knighly prowess he got them afore him. 
And so then when he felt himself so wounded he doubled his strokes, and 
gave them so many wounds that he felled them to the earth, and would 
have slain them had they not yielded them. And right so Sir La Cote 
Male Taile took the best horse that there was of them two, and so rode 
forth his way to that other fortress and bridge, and there he met with the 
third brother, whose name was Sir Plenorius, a full noble knight, and 
there they justed together, and either smote other down, horse and man, 
to the earth. And then they two avoided their horses and dressed their 
shields and drew their swords and gave many sad strokes, and one while 
the one knight was afore on the bridge and another while the other. And 
thus they fought two hours and more and never rested. Then Sir La Cote 
Male Taile sunk down upon the earth, for what for wounds and what for 
blood he might not stand. Then the other knight had pity of him, and 
said, ' Fair young knight, dismay you not, for if ye had been fresh when ye 
met with me, as I was, I know well I should not have endured so long as 
ye have done, and therefore for your noble deeds and valiantness I shall 
show you great kindness and gentleness in all that ever I may.' And 
forthwith the noble knight, Sir Plenorius, took him up in his arms and led 
him into his tower. And then he commended him the more and made 
him for to search him and for to stop his bleeding wounds. ' Sir,' said Sir 
La Cote Male Taile, ' withdraw you from me, and hie you to yonder 
bridge again, for there will meet you another manner knight than ever I 
was.' Then Sir Plenorius gat his horse and came with a great spear in his 
hand galloping as the hurl wind had borne him towards Sir Launcelot, 
and then they began to feutre* their spears, and came together like 

• Couch. 

Knight- Errantry. 375 

thunder, and smote either other so mightily that their horses fell down 
under them; and then they avoided their horses and drew out their 
swords, and like two bulls they lashed together with great strokes and 
foins ; but ever Sir Launcelot recovered ground upon him, and Sir Pleno- 
rius traced to have from about him, and Sir Launcelot would not surfer 
that, but bore him backer and backer, till he came nigh the gate tower, and 
then said Sir Launcelot, ' I know thee well for a good knight, but wot thou 
well thy life and death is in my hands, and therefore yield thou to me and 
thy prisoners.' The other answered not a word, but struck mightily upon 
Sir Launcelot's helm that fire sprang out of his eyes ; then Sir Launcelot 
doubled his strokes so thick and smote at him so mightily that he made him 
to kneel upon his knees, and therewith Sir Launcelot lept upon him, and 
pulled him down grovelling; then Sir Plenorius yielded him and his 
tower and all his prisoners at his will, and Sir Launcelot received him and 
took his troth." We must tell briefly the chivalrous sequel. Sir Launcelot 
offered to Sir La Cote Male Taile all the possessions of the conquered 
knight, but he refused to receive them, and begged Sir Launcelot to let 
Sir Plenorius retain his livelihood on condition he would be King Arthur's 
knight, — " ' Full well' said Sir launcelot, * so that he will come to the 
court of King Arthur and become his man and his three brethren. And 
as for you, Sir Plenorius, I will undertake, at the next feast, so there be a 
place void, that ye shall be Knight of the Round Table.' Then Sir 
Launcelot and Sir La Cote Male Taile rested them there, and then they 
had merry cheer and good rest and many good games, and there were 
many fair ladies." In the woodcut we see Sir La Cote Male Taile, who 
has just overthrown Sir Pleine de Force at the foot of the bridge, and the 
gentlemen and yeomen are looking on out of the windows and over the 
batdements of the gate tower. 

The iUuminators are never tired of representing battles and sieges ; and 
the general impression which we gather from them is that a mediaeval 
combat must have presented to the lookers-on a confused nul&e of rushing 
horses and armoured men in violent action, with a forest of weapons 
overhead — great swords, and falchions, and axes, and spears, with 
pennons fluttering aloft here and there in the breeze of the combat. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

We almost fancy we can see the dust caused by the prancing horses, 
and hear the clash of weapons and the hoarse war-cries, and sometimes 
can almost hear the shriek which bursts from the maddened horse, or 
the groan of the man who is wounded and helpless under the trampling 
hoofs. The woodcut introduced represents such a scene in a very 
spirited way. But it is noticeable among a hundred similar scenes for one 
incident, which is very unusual, and which gives us a glimpse of another 
aspect of mediaeval war. It will be seen that the combat is taking place 
outside a castle or fortified town; and that, on a sudden, in the con- 

A Sally across the Drawbridge. 

fusion of the combat, a side gate has been opened, and the bridge lowered, 
and a solid column of men-at-arms, on foot, is marching in military array 
across the bridge, in order to turn the flank of the assailant chivalry. We 
do not happen to know a representation of this early age of anything so 
thoroughly soldierly in its aspect as this sally. The incident itself indi- 
cates something more like regular war than the usual confused mingling of 
knights so well represented on the left side of the picture. The fact of 
men-at-arms, armed cap-a-pied, acting on foot, is not very usual at this 

Tactics and Strategy. 377 

period ; their unmistakable military order, as they march two and two 
with shields held in the same attitude and spears sloped at the same 
angle, speaks of accurate drill. The armorial bearings on the shield of one 
of the foremost rank perhaps point out the officer in command. 

It seems to be commonly assumed that the soldiers of the Middle Ages 
had little, if anything, like our modern drill and tactics ; that the men 
were simply put into the field in masses, according to some rude initial 
plan of the general, but that after the first charge the battle broke up into 
a series of chance-medley combats, in which the leaders took a personal 
share ; and that the only further piece of generalship consisted in bringing 
up a body of reserve to strengthen a corps which was giving ground, or to 
throw an overwhelming force upon some corps of the enemy which seemed 
to waver. 

It is true that we find very little information about the mediaeval drill 
or tactics, but it is very possible that there was more of both than is com- 
monly supposed. Any man whose duty it was to marshal and handle a 
body of troops would very soon, even if left to his own wit, invent enough 
of drill to enable him to move his men about from place to place, and to 
put them into the different formations necessary to enable them effectively 
to act on the offensive or defensive under different circumstances. A 
leader whose duty it was to command several bodies of troops would 
invent the elements of tactics, enough to enable him to combine them in a 
general plan of battie, and to take advantage of the different turns of the 
fight. Experience would rapidly ripen the knowledge of military men, 
and of experience they had only too much. It is true that the armies of 
mediaeval England consisted chiefly of levies of men who were not pro- 
fessional soldiers, and the officers and commanders were marked out for 
leadership by their territorial possessions, not by their military skill. But 
the men were not unaccustomed to their weapons, and were occasionally 
mustered for feudal display; and the country gentlemen who officered 
them were trained to military exercises as a regular part of their education, 
and, we may assume, to so much of military skill as was necessary to 
fulfil their part as knights. Then there were mercenary captains, who by 
continuous devotion to war acquired great knowledge and experience in all 

378 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

military affairs ; and the men who had to do with them, either as friends or 
foes, learnt from them. We need only glance down the line of our kings 
to find abundance of great captains among them — William the Conqueror, 
and Stephen, and Richard I., and Edward I. and III., and Henry IV. 
and V., and Edward IV., and Richard III. And military skill equal to 
the direction of armies was no less common among the nobility; and 
ability to take command of his own contingent was expected of every one 
who held his lands on condition of being always ready and able to follow 
his lord's banner to the field. 

In the Saxon days the strength of the army seems to have consisted of 
footmen, and their formation was generally in close and deep ranks, who, 
joining their shoulders together, formed an impenetrable defence ; wield- 
ing long heavy swords and battle-axes, they made a terrible assault. Some 
insight into the tactics of the age is given by William of Malmesbury's 
assertion that at Hastings the Normans made a feigned flight, which drew 
the Saxons from their close array, and then turning upon them, took them 
at advantage ; and repeated this manoeuvre more than once at the word 
of command. 

The strength of the Norman armies, on the other hand, consisted of 
knights and mounted men-at-arms. The military engines were placed in 
front, and commenced the engagement with their missiles ; the archers 
and slingers were placed on the wings. The crowd of half-armed footmen 
usually formed the first line ; the mounted troops were drawn up behind 
them in three lines, whose successive charges formed the main attack of 
the engagement. Occasionally, however, dismounted men-at-arms seem 
to have been used by some skilful generals with great effect. In several 
of the battles of Stephen's reign, this unusual mode appears to have been 
followed, under the influence of the foreign mercenary captains in the 
king's pay. 

Generals took pains to secure any possible advantage from the nature 
of the ground, and it follows that the plan of the battle must have turned 
sometimes on the defence or seizure of some commanding point which 
formed the key of the position. Ambuscades were a favourite device of 
which we not unfrequently read, and night surprises were equally common. 

Tactics and Strategy. 379 

We read also occasionally of stratagems, especially in the capture of 
fortresses, which savour rather of romance than of the stern realities of 
war. In short, perhaps the warfare of that day was not so very inferior 
in military skill to that of our own times as some suppose. In our last 
war the charge at Balaklava was as chivalrous a deed as ever was done 
in the Middle Ages, and Inkerman a fight of heroes ; but neither of them 
displayed more military science than was displayed by the Norman 
chivalry who charged at Hastings, or the Saxon billmen whose sturdy 
courage all but won the fatal day. 



O attempt to represent the knights in their manor-houses and 
castles would be to enter upon an essay on the domestic and 
military architecture of the Middle Ages, which would be beyond 
the plan of these sketches of the mediaeval chivalry. The student may find 
information on the subject in Mr. Parker's " Domestic Architecture," in 
Grose's " Military Antiquities," in Viollet le Due's " Architecture du Moyen 
Age," and scattered over the publications of the various antiquarian and 
architectural societies. We must, however, say a few words as to the way 
in which the knight defended his castle when attacked in it, and how he 
attacked his neighbour's castle or his enemy's town, in private feud or 
public war. 

It seems to be a common impression that the most formidable aspect of 
mediaeval war was a charge of knights with vizor down and lance in rest ; 
and that these gallant cavaliers only pranced their horses round and round 
the outer margin of the moat of a mediaeval castle, or if they did dismount 
and try to take the fortress by assault, would rage in vain against its thick 
walls and barred portcullis ; as in the accompanying woodcut from a MS. 
romance of the early part of the 14th century (Add. 10,292, f. v., date 
a.d. 1316), where the king on his curveting charger couches his lance 
against the castle wall, and has only his shield to oppose to the great stone 
which is about to be hurled down upon his head. The impression is, no 
doubt, due to the fact that many people have read romances, ancient and 
modern, which concern themselves with the personal adventures of their 
heroes, but have not read mediaeval history, which tells — even more than 



enough— of battles and sieges. They have only had the knight put before 
them — as in the early pages of these chapters — in the pomp and pageantry 
of chivalry. They have not seen him as the captain and soldier, directing 
and wielding the engines of war. 

Suppose the king and his chivalry in the following woodcut to be only 
summoning the castle ; and suppose them, on receiving a refusal to sur- 
render, to resolve upon an assault. They retire a few hundred yards and 
dismount, and put their horses under the care of a guard. Presently they 
return supported by a strong body of archers, who ply the mail-clad de- 

Summoning' the Castle. 

fenders with such a hail of arrows that they are driven to seek shelter behind 
the battlements. Seizing that moment, a party of camp followers run 
forward with a couple of planks, which they throw over the moat to make 
a temporary bridge. They are across in an instant, and place scaling- 
ladders against the walls. The knights, following close at their heels, 
mount rapidly, each man carrying his shield over his head, so that the bare 
ladder is converted into a covered stair, from whose shield-roof arrows 
glint and stones roll off innocuous. It is easy to see that a body of the 
enemy might thus, in a few minutes, effect a lodgment on the castle-wall, 
and open a way for the whole party of assailants into the interior. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

But the assailed may succeed in throwing down the ladders ; or in beat- 
ing the enemy off them by hurling down great stones ready stored against 
such an emergency, or heaving the coping-stones off the battlements ; or 
they may succeed in preventing the assailants from effecting a lodgment on 
the wall by a hand to hand encounter ; and thus the assault may be foiled 
and beaten off. Still our mediaeval captain has other resources ; he will 
next order up his " gyns," i.e. engines of war. 

The name applies chiefly to machines constructed for the purpose of 
hurling heavy missiles. The ancient nations of antiquity possessed such 
machines, and the knowledge of them descended to mediaeval times. There 

The Assault, 

seems, however, to be this great difference between the classical and the 
mediaeval engines, that the former were constructed on the principle of the 
bow, the latter on the principle of the sling. The classical ballista was, in 
fact, a huge cross-bow, made in a complicated way and worked by ma- 
chinery. The mediaeval trebuchet was a sling wielded by a gigantic arm of 
wood. In mediaeval Latin the ancient name of the ballista is sometimes 
found, but in the mediaeval pictures the principle of the engines illustrated 
is always that which we have described. We meet also in mediaeval 
writings with the names of the mangona and mangonella and the catapult, 
but they were either different names for the same engine, or names for 

Military Engines. 383 

different species of the same genus. The woodcut here introduced from 
the MS. Add. 10,294, f. 81 v., gives a representation of a trebuchet A still 
earlier representation — viz., of the thirteenth century — of machines of the 
same kind is to be found in the Arabic MS. quoted in a treatise, " Du 
feu Gregois," by MM. Fave and Reinaud, and leads to the supposition 
that the sling principle in these machines may have been introduced from 
the East. There are other representations of a little later date than that 
in the text (viz., about a.d. 1330) in the Royal MS. 16 G. VI., which are 
engraved in Shaw's " Dresses and Decorations." We also possess a con- 
temporary description of the machine in the work of Gilles Colonne (who 
died a.d. 1316), written for Philip the Fair of France.* " Of pcrriers? 
he says, " there are four kinds, and in all these machines there is a beam 
which is raised and lowered by means of a counterpoise, a sling being at- 
tached to the end of the beam to discharge the stone. Sometimes the 
counterpoise is not sufficient, and then they attach ropes to it to move the 
beam." This appears to be the case in our illustration. The rope seems 
to be passed through a ring in the platform of the engine, so that the force 
applied to the rope acts to the greater advantage in aid of the weight of 
the beam. " The counterpoise may either be fixed or movable, or both at 
once. In the fixed counterpoise a box is fastened to the end of the beam, 
and filled with stones or sand, or any heavy body." One would not, 
perhaps, expect such a machine to possess any precision of action, but 
according to our author the case was far otherwise. " These machines," 
he continues, "anciently called trabutium, cast their missiles with the 
utmost exactness, because the weight acts in a uniform manner. Their 
aim is so sure, that one may, so to say, hit a needle. If the gyn carries too 
far, it must be drawn back or loaded with a heavier stone ; if the contrary, 
then it must be advanced or a smaller stone supplied ; for without atten- 
tention to the weight of the stone, one cannot hope to reach the given 
mark." " Others of these machines have a movable counterpoise attached 
to the beam, turning upon an axis. This variety the Romans called biff a. 
The third kind, which is called tripantum, has two weights, one fixed to 
the Deam and the other movable round it. By this means it throws with 

• Hewitt's " Ancient Armour," i. p. 349. 

384 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

more exactness than the biffa, and to a greater distance than the trebuchet 
The fourth sort, in lieu of weights fixed to the beam, has a number of 
ropes, and is discharged by means of men pulling simultaneously at the 
cords. This last kind does not cast such large stones as the others, but it 
has the advantage that it may be more rapidly loaded and discharged than 
they. In using the perriers by night it is necessary to attach a lighted body 
to the projectile. By this means one may discover the force of the ma- 
chine, and regulate the weight of the stone accordingly." * This, then, is 
the engine which our captain, repulsed in his attempt to take the place by 
a coup de main, has ordered up, adjusting it, no doubt, like a good Cftptain, 
with his own eye and hand, until he has got it, "so to say, to hit a 
neeedle," on the weak points of the place. It was usual in great sieges 
to have several of them, so that a whole battery might be set to work to 
overmaster the defence. 

We must bear in mind that similar engines were, it is probable, usually 
mounted on the towers of the castle. We should judge from the roundness of 
the stones which the defenders in both the preceding woodcuts are throwing 
down by hand upon the enemy immediately beneath, that they are the 
stones provided for the military engines. We find that, as in modern times 
cannon is set to silence the cannon of the enemy, so that a battle becomes, 
for a time at least, an artillery duel, so engine was set to silence engine. 
In the account which Guillaume des Ormes gives of his defence of the 
French town of Carcasonne in 1240 a.d., he says : "They set up a man- 
gonel before our barbican, when we lost no time in opposing to it from 
within an excellent Turkish petrary, which played upon the mangonel and 
those about it, so that when they essayed to cast upon us, and saw the beam 
of our petrary in motion, they fled, utterly abandoning their mangonel." 

There was also an engine called an arbalasi, or spurgardon, or espringale, 
which was a huge cross-bow mounted on wheels, so as to be movable like 
a field-piece ; it threw great pointed bolts with such force as to pass suc- 
cessively through several men. 

If the engines of the besiegers were silenced, or failed to produce anv 

* The album of Villars de Honnecourt, of the thirteenth century, contains directions 
for constructing the trebuchet. 

Sieges. 3&5 

decisive impression on the place, the captain of the assailants might try the 
effect of the ram. We seldom, indeed, hear of its use in the Middle Ages, 
but one instance, at least, is recorded by Richard of Devizes, who says that 
Richard I., at the siege of Messina, forced in the gates of the city by the 
application of the battering-ram, and so won his way into the place, and 
captured it. The walls of mediaeval fortifications were so immensely 
thick, that a ram would be little likely to break them. The gates, too, 
of a castle or fortified gate-tower were very strong. If the reader will 
look at the picture of a siege of a castle, given on page 373, he will 
see a representation of a casde-gate, which will help him to understand 
its defences. First he will see that the drawbridge is raised, so that the 
assailant has to bridge the moat before he can bring his battering-ram to 
bear. Suppose the yawning gulf bridged with planks or filled in with 
fascines, and the ram brought into position, under fire from the loops of 
the projecting towers of the gate as well as from the neighbouring batde- 
ments, then the bridge itself forms an outer door which must first be 
battered down. Behind it will be found the real outer-door, made as 
strong as oak timber and iron bolts can make it. That down, there is next 
the grated portcullis seen in two previous woodcuts, against which the ram 
would rattle with a great clang of iron ; but the grating, with its wide 
spaces, and having plenty of " play " in its stone groove, would baffle the 
blows by the absence of a solid resistance, and withstand them by the 
tenacity of wrought-iron. Even if the bars were bent and torn till they 
afforded a passage, the assailants would find themselves in the narrow 
space within the gate-tower confronted by another door, and exposed to 
missiles poured upon them from above. It is, perhaps, no wonder that we 
hear little of the use of the ram in mediaeval times ; though it might be 
useful occasionally to drive in some ill-defended postern. 

The use of the regular mine for effecting a breach in the wall of a fortified 
place was well known, and often brought to bear. The miners began their 
work at some distance, and drove a shaft underground towards the part of 
the fortifications which seemed most assailable ; they excavated beneath 
the foundations of the wall, supporting the substructure with wooden props 
until they had finished their work. Then they set fire to the props, and 

2 c 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

retired to see the unsupported weight of the wall bringing it down in a 
heap of ruins. The operation of mining was usually effected under the pro- 
tection of a temporary pent-house, called a cat or sow. William of Malmes- 
bury describes the machine as used in the siege of Jerusalem, at the end of 
the eleventh century. " It is constructed," he says, " of slight timbers, the 
roof covered with boards and wicker-work, and the sides protected with un- 
dressed hides, to protect those who are within, who proceed to undermine 
the foundations of the walls." Our next woodcut gives a very clear 
illustration of one of these machines, which has been moved on its wheels 

up to the outer wall of a castle, and 
beneath its protection a party of 
men-at-arms are energetically plying 
their miner's tools, to pick away the 
foundation, and so allow a portion 
of the wall to settle down and leave 
an entrance. The methods in which 
this mode of attack was met were 
various. We all remember the 
Border heroine, who, when her 
castle was thus attacked, declared 
she would make the sow farrow, viz., 
by casting down a huge fragment of 
stone upon it. That this was one 
way of defence is shown in the 
woodcut, where one of the defenders, 
with energetic action, is casting 
down a huge stone upon the sow. 
That the roof was made strong 
enough to resist such a natural means of offence is shown by the stones 
which are represented as lodged all along it. Another more subtle 
counteraction, shown in the woodcut, was to pour boiling water or boiling 
oil upon it, that it might fall through the interstices of the roof, and make 
the interior untenable. No doubt means were taken to make the roof 
liquid-tight, for the illustration represents another mode of counter-action 

The Cat. (Royal, 16 G VI.) 

Military Engines. 387 

(of which we have met with no other suggestion), by driving sharp-pointed 
piles into the roof, so as to make holes and cracks through which the boil 
ing liquid might find an entrance. If these means of counteracting the 
work of the cat seemed likely to be unavailing, it still remained to throw 
up an inner line of wall, which, when the breach was made, should extend 
from one side to the other of the unbroken wall, and so complete the cir- 
cumvallation. This, we have evidence, was sometimes done with timber 
and planks, and a sort of scaffolding was erected on the inner side, which 
maintained the communication along the top of the walls, and enabled the 
soldiers to man the top of this wooden wall and offer a new resistance to 
the besiegers as they poured into the breach. The mine was also, in 
ancient as in modern times, met by a counter-mine. 

Another usual machine for facilitating the siege of fortified places was a 
movable tower. Such an engine was commonly prepared beforehand, and 
taken to pieces and transported with the army as a normal part of the siege- 
train. When arrived at the scene of operations, it was put together at a 
distance, and then pushed forward on wheels, until it confronted the walls 
of the place against which it was to operate. It was intended to put the 
besiegers on a level and equality with the besieged. From the roof the 
assailants could command the batdements and the interior of the place, 
and by their archers could annoy the defence. A movable part of the front 
of the tower suddenly let fall upon the opposite battlements, at once opened 
a door and formed a bridge, by which the besiegers could make a rush 
upon the walls and effect a lodgment if successful, or retreat if unsuccessful 
to their own party. 

Such a tower was constructed by Richard I. in Cyprus, as part of his 
preparation for his Crusade. An illustration of a tower thus opposed to a 
castle — not a very good illustration — is to be found in the Royal MS., 
16 G. VI., at folio 278 v. Another, a great square tower, just level with 
the opposing battlements, with a kind of sloping roof to ward off missiles, 
is shown in the MS. Chroniques tT Angleterres (Royal 16, E. IV.), which was 
illuminated for Edward IV. Again, at f. 201 of the same MS., is another 
representation of wooden towers opposed to a city. 

If the besieged could form a probable conjecture as to the point of the 

388 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

walls towards which the movable tower, whose threatening height they saw 
gradually growing at a bow-shot from their walls, would be ultimately di- 
rected, they sometimes sent out under cover of night and dug pitfalls, into 
which, as its huge bulk was rolled creaking forward, its fore wheels might 
suddenly sink, and so the machine fall forward, and remain fixed and use- 
less. As it approached, they also tried to set it on fire by missiles tipped 
with combustibles. If it fairly attained its position, they assailed every loop 
and crevice in it with arrows and crossbow bolts, and planted a strong 
body of men-at-arms on the walls opposite to it, and in the neighbouring 
towers, to repel the " boarders " in personal combat. A bold and enter- 
prising captain did not always wait for the approach of these engines of 
assault, but would counter-work them as he best could from the shelter of 
his walls. He would sometimes lower the drawbridge, and make a sudden 
sally upon the unfinished tower or the advancing sow, beat off the handful 
of men who were engaged about it, pile up the fragments and chips lying 
about, pour a few pots of oil or tar over the mass, and set fire to it, and 
return in triumph to watch from his battlements how his fiery ally would, 
in half an hour, destroy his enemy's work of half a month. In the early 
fourteenth century MS. Add. 10,294, at fol. 740, we have a small picture 
of a fight before a castle or town, in which we see a column of men-at-arms 
crossing the drawbridge on such an expedition. And again, in the plates 
in which Hans Burgmaier immortalised the events of the reign of the 
Emperor Maximilian, a very artistic representation of a body of men-at- 
arms, with their long lances, crowding through the picturesque gate and over 
the drawbridge, brings such an incident vividly before us. 

The besiegers on their part did not neglect to avail themselves of such 
shelter as they could find or make from the shot and from the sallies of the 
enemy, so as to equalise as much as practicable the conditions of the con- 
test. The archers of the castle found shelter behind the merlons of the 
battlements, and had the windows from which they shot screened by 
movable shutters; as may be seen in the next woodcut of the assault 
on a castle. It would have put the archers of the assailants at a 
great disadvantage if they had had to stand out in the open space, exposed 
defenceless to the aim of the foe ; all neighbouring trees which could give 

Military Engines. 


shelter were, of course, cut down, in order to reduce them to this defence- 
less condition, and works were erected so as to command every possible 
coigne of vantage which the nooks and angles of the walls might have 
afforded. But the archers of the besiegers sought to put themselves on 
more equal terms with their opponents by using the part's or mantelet. The 
pavis was a tall shield, curved so as partly to envelop the person of the 
bearer, broad at the top and 
tapering to the feet. We some- 
times see cross-bowmen carrying 
it slung at their backs (as in 
Harl. 4,379, and Julius K IV., 
f. 219, engraved on p. 294), so 
thnt after discharging a shot they 
could turn round and be shel- 
tered by the great shield while 
they wound up their instrument 
for another shot. Sometimes this 
shield seems to have been simply 
three planks of wood nailed to- 
gether, which stood upright on 
the ground, and protected the 
soldier effectively on three sides. 
There are illustrations of it in 
the MS. Royal 20 C vii. (temp. 
Rich. II.), at f. 19, £ 24 v., and 
f. 29 v., and in the MS. HarL 
4,382, f. 133 v. and f. 154 v. 
The mantelet was a shield still 
more ample, and capable of being 
fixed upright by a prop, so that Use °f the Pav "> m - 

it formed a kind of little movable fort which the bowman, or man-at-arms, 
could carry out and plant before the walls, and thence discharge his 
missiles, or pursue any other operation, in comparative safety from the 
smaller artillery of the enemy. The most interesting example which we 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

have met of the employment of the pavis and mantelet, is in a picture in the 
Harl. MS. 4,425, at f. 133. The woodcut on the previous page represents 
only a portion of the picture, the whole of which is well worth study. The 
reader will see at once that we have here the work of a draughtsman of far 
superior skill to that of the limners of the rude illuminations which we have 
previously given. The background really gives us some adequate idea of 
the appearance of an Edwardian castle with its barbican and drawbridge, 
its great tower with the heads of the defenders just peeping over the 
battlements. We must call attention to the right-hand figure in the 

Cannon and Mortar. 

foreground, who is clad in a pourpoint, one of the quilted armours which 
we have formerly described, because it is the best illustration of this species 
of armour we have met with. But the special point for which we give the 
woodcut here, is to illustrate the use of the mantelet. It will be seen — 
though somewhat imperfectly, from the fragment of the engraving intro- 
duced — that these defences have been brought up to the front of the 
attacking party in such numbers as to form an almost continuous wall, 
behind which the men-at-arms are sheltered ; on the right are great fixed 
mantelets, with a hole in the middle of each, through which the muzzle of 

Military Engines. 391 

a gun is thrust ; while the cannoniers work their guns as behind the walls 
of a fort. 

Similar movable defences, variously constructed, continued to be used 
down to a very late period. For example, in some large plans of the array 
of the army of Henry VIII., preserved in the British Museum (Cotton ian 
MS., Augustus III., f. 1 v.), the cannon are flanked by huge mantelets of 
timber, which protect the cannoniers. In the one engraved between pp. 
454 and 455, we see a representation of the commencement of the battle, 
showing some of the mantelets overthrown by the assault of soldiers armed 
with poleaxes. In modern warfare the sharpshooter runs out into the open, 
carrying a sand-bag by way of pavis, behind which he lies and picks off the 
enemy, and the artillery throw up a little breastwork, or mantelet, of sand-bags. 
Sometimes the besieging army protected itself by works of a still more 
permanent kind. It threw up embankments with a pallisade at top, or 
sometimes constructed a breastwork, or erected a fort, of timber. For 
example, in the Royal MS. 14 E. IV., at f. 14, we have a picture of an 
assault upon a fortified place, in which the besiegers have strengthened 
their position by a timber breastwork. It is engraved at p. 443 ; the whole 
picture is well worth study. Again, in the Cottonian MS., Augustus V., 
at folio 266, is a camp with a wooden fence round it. 

An army in the field often protected its position in a similar way. So 
far back as the eleventh century the historians tell us that William the 
Conqueror brought over a timber fort with him to aid his operations. The 
plan of surrounding the camp with the waggons and baggage of the army is 
perhaps one of the most primitive devices of warfare, and we find it used 
down to the end of the period which is under our consideration. In the 
MS. already mentioned, Augustus III., on the reverse of folio 4, is a 
picture of an army of the time of Henry VIII. encamped by a river, and 
enclosed on the open sides by the baggage, and by flat-bottomed boats on 
their carriages, which we suppose have been provided for the passage of 
the stream. 

The siege of Bedford Castle, as described by Roger Wendover, in the 
year 1224, gives a good historical instance of the employment of these 
various modes of attacking a stronghold at that period. The castle was 


77ie Knights of the Middle Ages. 

being held against the king, who invested it in person. Two towers of 
wood were raised against the walls, and filled with archers ; seven man- 
gonels cast ponderous stones from morning to night ; sappers approached 
the walls under the cover of the cat. First the barbican, then the outer 
bailey was taken. A breach in the second wall soon after gave the 
besiegers admission to the inner bailey. The donjon still held out, and 
the royalists proceeded to approach it by means of their sappers. A suffi- 
cient portion of the foundations having been removed, the stancheons were 



set on fire, one of the angles sank deep into the ground, and a wide rent 
laid open the interior of the keep. The garrison now planted the royal 
standard on the walls, and sent the women to implore mercy. But a 
severe example was made of the defenders, in order to strike terror among 
the disaffected in other parts of the realm.* 

Among the occasional warlike contrivances, stinkpots were employed to 
repel the enemy, and the Greek fire was also occasionally used. A re- 
presentation of the use of stinkpots, and also of the mode of using the 

* Hewitt's "Ancient Armour," i. 361. 

Military Engines. 393 

Greek fire, may be seen in the Royal MS. 18 E. V., at f. 207 (date 1473 

Those more terrible engines of war which ultimately revolutionised the 
whole art of warfare, which made the knight's armour useless, and the tre- 
buchet and arbalest the huge toys of an unscientific age, were already 
introduced ; though they were yet themselves so immature, that for a time 
military men disputed whether the old long bow or the new fire-arm was 
the better weapon, and the trebuchet still held its place beside the cannon. 
In the old illuminations we find mediaeval armour and fire-arms together in 
incongruous conjunction. The subject of the use of gunpowder is one of 
to much interest, that it deserves to be treated in a separate chapter. 



N former papers we have seen the characteristic feature of the 
armour of Saxon, Norman, and Early English times, down to 
the latter part of the thirteenth century, was that of mail armour 
— i.e. composed of rings sewn upon garments of something like the ordinary 
shape — tunic, hose, and hood — or linked together into the shape of such 
garments. The fourteenth century was a period of transition from mail 
armour to plate. First it was found convenient to protect the elbow and 
knee with conical caps made out of a plate of steel ; then the upper arm 
and fore arm, the thigh and leg, were encased in separate pieces of armour 
made to fit to the limbs ; in place of the old helmet worn over the mail 
hood, a globular bascinet of plate was used, with a fringe of mail attached 
to it, falling over the shoulders ; in place of the hauberk of mail, a globular 
plate to protect the breast, and another the back, connected at the sides, 
with a deep skirt of mail attached to them, falling over the hips. In the 
old days of mail armour a flowing surcoat was worn over it, to protect it 
from wet, dust, and the heat of the sun ; in the fourteenth century the 
body-armour was covered with a close-fitting jupon of rich material and 
colour, embroidered with the arms of the wearer, and girded by a rich 
enamelled horizontal belt. 

The characteristic of the armour of the fifteenth century was that it 
consisted of a complete suit of plate ; the fringe of the bascinet being 
replaced by a gorgei of plate, the skirt of mail by horizontal over-lapping 
plates ; and for some time no covering was worn over the armour, but the 
knightly vanity of the time delighted in the glittering splendour of the 

Fifteetith Century Armour. 395 

burnished steel. Later in the century, however, mail came again into 
considerable use, in short sleeves for the protection of the upper arm, and 
in skirts, which were doubtless found more convenient to the horseman 
than the solid plates of overlapping steel. It also seems to have been 
found practically inconvenient to dispense with some textile covering over 
the armour; and a considerable variety of such coverings was used, 
according to the caprice of the wearer. Numerous diversified experiments 
in the construction of armour were tried, and we commonly find in pictures 
of the time a great variety of fashions, both of armour and weapons, 
brought together in the same troop of warriors. It is a matter of interest 
to the antiquary to trace out the rise of all these various fashions and to 
determine when they went out of fashion again ; but for our present pur- 
pose it is enough to point out the salient features of the military costume 
of the century, and, as varieties are brought before us in the illustrations 
from ancient MSS. which we proceed to introduce to our readers, to point 
out their meaning and interest. Let us begin, then, with a picture which 
will afford us, in the left-hand figure, a typical illustration of the complete 
plate-armour of the century, and proceed to describe the various pieces of 
which it is composed. His head is protected by a bascinet of steel, without 
visor to protect the face, though the picture represents him as actually 
engaged in the thick of a battle ; but the steel gorget is brought up so as 
to protect the lower part of the face. It is not unfrequent to find the 
knights of this period with the face similarly exposed. Probably the heat 
and the difficulty of breathing caused by the visor were considered to 
outweigh the additional safety which it afforded. The neck is protected 
by a gorget of plate ; and instead of the globular breastplate and skirt of 
mail worn under the gay jupon of the fourteenth century, the body is cased 
in two pairs of plates, which open with hinges at the sides, the lower plates 
coming to a point at the back and breast. In this illustration the whole 
suit of armour presents an unrelieved surface of burnished steel, the out- 
lines of the various pieces of armour being marked by a narrow line of 
gold. But it was very usual for one of the two breastplates to be covered 
with silk or velvet embroidered. This will be seen in the armour of the 
archer from the same picture, in which the upper plate is covered with 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

blue, powdered with gold spots arranged in trefoils. So in the woodcut on 
p. 399 the upper breastplate of the knight nearest to the spectator is blue 
with gold spots, while in the further knight the upper plate is red. Turn- 
ing again to the knight before us, his shoulders are protected by paul- 
drons. These portions of the armour differ much in different examples ; 
they were often ridged, so as to prevent a blow from glancing off to 
the neck, and sometimes they have a kind of standing collar to protect 
the neck from a direct stroke. Sometimes the pauldron of the left 

Man-at-Arms and Archer of the Fifteenth Century. 

shoulder is elaborately enlarged and strengthened to resist a blow, while 
the right shoulder is more simply and lightly armed, so as to offer as little 
hindrance as possible to the action of the sword arm. The upper arm is 
protected by brassarts, and the fore arm by vambraces, the elbows by 
coudieres, while the gussets at the armpit and elbow are further guarded 
by roundels of plate. It will be seen that the gauntlets are not divided into 
fingers, but three or four plates are attached, like the plates of a lobster, 
to the outside of a leathern gauntlet, to protect the hand without inter- 

Fifteenth Century Armour. 397 

fering with the tenacity of its grasp of the weapon. The lower part of the 
body is protected by a series of overlapping plates, called taces. In most 
of the examples which we give of this period, the taces have a mail skirt 
or fringe attached to the lowest plate. Sometimes the taces came lower 
down over the thighs and rendered any further defence unnecessary ; 
sometimes, as in the example before us, separate plates, called tuilles, 
were attached by straps to the lowest tace, so as to protect the front of 
the thigh without interfering with the freedom of motion. The legs are 
cased in cuissarts and jambarts, and the knee protected by genouillieres ; 
and as the tuilles strengthen the defence of the thigh, the shin has an extra 
plate for its more efficient defence. The feet seem in this example to be 
simply clothed with shoes, like those of the archer, instead of being defended 
by pointed sollerets of overlapping plates, like those seen in our other 

It will be noticed that in place of the broad military belt of the four- 
teenth century, enriched with enamelled plates, the sword is now sus- 
pended by a narrcw strap, which hangs diagonally across the body. 

The knight is taken from a large picture in the MS. Chroniques d'Angle- 
terre (Royal 14, E. IV., f. 192 v.), which represents a party of French 
routed by a body of Portuguese and English. In front of the knight lies 
his horse pierced with several arrows, and the dismounted rider is preparing 
to continue the combat on foot with his formidable axe. The archer is 
introduced from the same picture, to show the difference between his half 
armour and the complete panoply of the knight. In the archer's equip- 
ment the body is protected by plates of steel and a skirt of mail, the 
upper arm by a half-sleeve of mail, and the head by a visored helmet ; 
but the rest of the body is unarmed. 

Our next illustration is from a fine picture in the same MS. (at f. 
ccxv.), which represents how the Duke of Lancaster and his people 
attacked the forts that defended the harbour of Brest. The background 
represents a walled and moated town — Brest — with the sea and ships in 
the distance ; on the left of the picture the camp of the duke, defended 
by cannon j and in the foreground a skirmish of knights. It is a curious 
illustration of the absence of rigid uniformity in the military equipment of 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

these times, that each suit of armour in this picture differs from every 
other ; so that this one picture supplies the artist with fourteen or fifteen 
different examples of military costume, all clearly delineated with a gor- 
geous effect of colouring. Some of these suits are sufficiently represented 
in others of our illustrations. We have again selected one which stands 
in contrast with all the rest from the absence of colour ; most of the others 
have the upper breastplate coloured, and the helmet unvisored, or with 
the visor raised. This gives us a full suit of armour unrelieved by colour, 

Knight of the Fifteenth Century. 

except in the helmet-feather, sword-belt, and sheath, which are all gilt 
The unusual shape of the helmet will be noticed, and it will be seen that 
there is a skirt or fringe of mail below the taces. The horse is a grey, 
with trappings of red and gold, his head protected by a steel plate. In 
the cut on p. 403 one of the horses will be found to have the neck also 
defended by overlapping plates of steel. The shape of the deep military 
saddle is also well seen in this illustration. 

The next woodcut is also only a part of a large picture which forms 

Fifteenth Century Armour. 


the frontispiece of the second book of the same MS. (f. brii.). It 
represents a sally of the garrison of Nantes on the English, who are 
besieging it. Like the preceding picture, it is full of interesting examples 
of different armours. Our illustration selects several of them. The knight 
nearest to us has the upper plate of his breastplate covered with a blue 
covering powdered with gold spots, and riveted to the steel plate beneath by 

Group of English Knights and French Men-at-Arms. 

the two steel studs on the shoulder-blades. Between the series of narrow 
taces and the vandyked fringe of mail is a skirt of blue drapery, which per- 
haps partially hides the skirt of mail, allowing only its edge to appear. 
The gorget is also of mail ; and the gusset of mail at the armpit is left very 
visible by the action of the arm. The further knight has his upper breast- 
plate and skirt red. The horses are also contrasted in colour ; the nearer 
horse is grey, with red and gold trappings : the further horse black, with 

400 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

blue and gold trappings. The man-at-arms who lies prostrate under the 
horse-hoofs is one of the garrison, who has been pierced by the spear 
whose truncheon lies on the ground beside him. His equipment marks 
him out as a man of the same military grade as the archer on p. 396, 
though the axe which he wields indicates that he is a man-at-arms. His 
body-armour is covered by a surcoat of blue, laced down the front ; he 
wears a gorget and skirt of mail. His feet, like those of the men on p. 396, 
seem not to be covered with armour, and his hands are undefended by 

The unarmed man on the left is one of the English party, in ordi- 
nary civil costume, apparently only a spectator of the attack. His hose 
are red, his long-pointed shoes brown, his short-skirted but long-sleeved 
gown is blue, worn over a vest of embroidered green and gold, which is 
seen at the sleeves and the neck ; the cuffs are red, and he wears a gold 
chain and gilded sword-belt and sheath, and carries a walking staff. The 
contrast which he affords to the other figures adds interest and pic- 
turesqueness to the group. 

The illustration on the next page from the Royal MS., 18 E. V., f. 310 v., 
forms the frontispiece to a chapter of Roman History, and is a mediaeval 
representation of no less a personage than Julius Caesar crossing the 
Rubicon. The foremost figure is Caesar. He is in a complete suit of 
plate-armour ; over his armour he wears a very curious drapery like a 
short tabard without sleeves ; it is of a yellow brown colour, but of what 
material it is not possible to determine. There is great diversity in the 
fashion of the surcoat worn over the armour at this time. One variety is 
seen in the fallen man-at-arms in the preceding woodcut ; and a similar 
surcoat, loosely fastened by three or four buttons down the front, instead 
of tightly laced all the way down, is not uncommon. In another picture, 
a knight in full plate-armour wears a short gown, with hanging sleeves, of 
the ordinary civilian fashion, like that worn by the gentleman on the left- 
hand side of the preceding cut. Out of a whole troop of Roman soldiers 
who follow Ciesar, we have taken only two as sufficient for our purpose of 
showing varieties of equipment. The first has the fore arm protected by a 
vambrace, but instead of pauldrons and brassarts the shoulders and arms 

Fifteenth Century Armour. 


are protected by sleeves of mail. The taces also are short, with a deep 
skirt of mail below them. The head defence loots in the woodcut like 
one of the felt hats that knights frequently wore when travelling, to relieve 
the head of the weight of the helmet, which was borne behind by a squire; 
but it is coloured blue, and seems to be of steel, with a white bandeau 
round it. The reader will notice the " rest " in which the lance was laid 

yulius Casar crossing the Rubicon. 

to steady it in the charge, screwed to the right breast of the breastplate ; he 
will notice also the long-pointed solleret, the long neck of the spur, and the 
triangular stirrup, and the fashion of riding with a long stirrup, the foot 
thrust home into the stirrup, and the toe pointed downwards. The third 
figure wears a gorget with a chin-piece, and a visored bascinet ; the whole 
of his body armour is covered by a handsome pourpoint, which is red, 

2 D 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

powdered with gold spots ; the pauldrons are of a different fashion from 
those of Caesar, and the coudiere is finished with a spike. 

The next woodcut does less justice than usual to the artistic merits 
of the illumination from which it is taken. It is from a fine MS. of 
the Romance of the Rose (Harl. 4,925, folio cxxx. v.) ; the figures are 
allegorical. The great value of the painting is in the rounded form of the 
breastplates and helmets, and the play of light and shade, and variety of 

Allegorical Figures. 

A Knight at the hall-door. 

tint, upon them ; the solid heavy folds of the mail skirts and sleeves are 
also admirably represented ; and altogether the illuminations of this MS 
give an unusually life-like idea of the actual pictorial effect of steel armour 
and the accompanying trappings. The arms and legs of these two figures 
are unarmed ; those of the figure in the foreground are painted red, those 
of the other figure blue ; the shield is red, with gold letters. The deep 
mail skirts, with taces and tuilles, were in common wear at the close of 
the fifteenth century, and on into the sixteenth. 

Fifteenth Century Armour. 


The little woodcut of a knight at the hall-door illustrates another variety 
of skirt ; in place of taces and mail skirt, we have a skirt covered with 
overlapping plates, probably of horn or metal. This knight wears gloves 
of leather, undefended by armour. 

The last illustration in this chapter is from the valuable MS. Life 
and Acts of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (Julius E. IV.), from 
which we shall hereafter give some other more important subjects. The 

The Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Wat wick. 

present is part of a fight before Calais, in which Philip Duke of Burgundy 
was concerned on one side, and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, Richard 
Earl of Warwick, and Humphrey Earl of Stafford on the other. In the 
background of the picture is a view of Calais, with its houses, walls, and 
towers, washed by the sea. The two figures are taken from the foreground 
of the battle-scene, which occupies the major part of the picture. The 
helmets, it will be seen, are iron hats with a wide brim which partially 
protects the face ; they have a considerable amount of ornament about 

404 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

them. Both warriors are armed in a single globular breastplate (the 
combination of two plates went out of fashion towards the end of the 
fifteenth century) ; one has short taces and a deep mail skirt, the other 
has deeper taces and tuilles besides. The knight on the left side has his 
left shoulder protected by a pauldron, which covers the shoulder and 
partially overlaps the breastplate, and has a high collar to protect the 
neck and face from a sweeping horizontal blow. It will be seen that 
the sollerets have lost the long-pointed form, though they have not yet 
reached the broad-toed shape which became fashionable with Henry VIII. 
The equipment of the horses deserves special examination. They are 
fully caparisoned, and armed on the face and neck, with plumes of 
feathers and magnificent bridles ; it will be seen, also, that the point 
of the saddle comes up very high, and is rounded so as partly to enclose 
the thigh, and form a valuable additional defence. At a period a little 
later, this was developed still further in the construction of the tilting 
saddles, so as to make them a very important part of the system of 

How perfect the armour at length became may be judged from the fact 
that in many battles very few of the completely armed knights were killed 
— sometimes not one; their great danger was in getting unhorsed and 
ridden over and stifled in the press. Another danger to the unhorsed 
knight is pointed out in a graphic passage of the History of Philip 
de Comines, with which we will conclude this chapter. After one of the 
battles at which he was himself present, he says : " We had a great 
number of stragglers and servants following us, all of which flocked 
about the men-of-arms being overthrown, and slew the most of them. 
For the greatest part of the said stragglers had their hatchets in their 
hands, wherewith they used to cut wood to make our lodgings, with 
the which hatchets they brake the vizards of their head-pieces and then 
clave their heads ; for otherwise they could hardly have been slain, they 
were so surely armed, so that there were ever three or four about one of 

It is not necessary to infer that these unfortunate men-at-arms who were 
thus cracked, as if they were huge crustaceans, were helpless from wounds, 

Fifteenth Century Armour. 405 

or insensible from their fall. It was among the great disadvantages of 
plate-armour, that when a man was once in it he could not get out again 
without help ; nay, he was sometimes so securely fastened in it that the 
aid must come in the shape of an armourer's tools ; and the armour was 
sometimes so cumbrous that when he was once down he could not get 
up again — a castle of steel on his war-horse, a helpless log when over- 



|HE manner of bringing up a youth of good family in the Middle 
Ages was not to send him to a public school and the university, 
nor to keep him at home under a private tutor, but to put him 
into the household of some nobleman or knight of reputation to be trained 
up in the principles and practices of chivalry.* First, as a page, he attended 
on the ladies of the household, and imbibed the first principles of that 
high-bred courtesy and transcendental devotion to the sex which are 
characteristic of the knight. From the chaplain of the castle he gained 
such knowledge of book-learning as he was destined to acquire — which 
was probably more extensive than is popularly supposed. He learnt 
also to sing a romance, and accompany himself on the harp, from the 
chief of the band of minstrels who wore his lord's livery. As a squire he 
came under the more immediate supervision of his lord ; was taught by 
some experienced old knight or squire to back a horse and use his weapons ; 
and was stirred to emulation by constant practice with his fellow-squires. 
He attended upon his lord in time of peace, carved his meat and filled his 
cup, carried his shield or helmet on a journey, gave him a fresh lance in the 
tournament, raised him up and remounted him when unhorsed, or dragged 
him out of the press if wounded ; followed him to battle, and acted as subal- 
tern officer of the troop of men-at-arms who followed their lord's banner. 

It is interesting to see how the pictures in the illuminated MSS. enable 
us to follow the knight's history step by step. In the following woodcut we 

* For much curious detail on this subject see "The Babee's Book," published by the 
Early English Text Society. 

TJic Page and the Sqtdre. 


see him as a child in long clothes, between the knight his father, and his 
lady mother, who sit on a bench with an embroidered banker * thrown over 
its seat, making an interesting family group. 

The woodcut on the next page shows us a group of pages imbibing 
chivalrous usages even in their childish sports, for they are "playing at 
jousting." It is easy to see the nature of the toy. A slip of wood forms the 
foundation, and represents the lists ; the two wooden knights are movable 
on their horses by a pin through the hips and saddle ; when pushed together 
in mimic joust, either the spears miss, and the course must be run again, or 
each strikes the other's breast, and one or other gives way at the shock, and 
is forced back upon his horse's back, and is vanquished. This illustration 

is from Hans Burgmair's famous illustrations of the life of the Emperor 
Maximilian. A similar illustration is given in Strutt's " Sports and Pas- 
times." A third picture, engraved in the Archaological Journal, vol. ii. 
p. 173, represents a squire carving before his lord at a high feast, and 
illustrates a passage in Chaucer's description of his squire among the 
Canterbury Pilgrims, which we here extract (with a few verbal alterations, 
to make it more intelligible to modern ears) as a typical picture of a squire, 
even more full of life and interest than the pictorial illustrations : — 

"With him ther was his son, a younge squire, 
A lover and a lusty bacheler ; 

* A cover for a bench. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

His lockes crull as they were laide in presse, 
Of twenty yere of age he was I guess. 
Of his stature he was of even lengthe, 
And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe. 
He hadde be some time in chevachie, 
In Flanders, in Artois, and in Picardie, 
And borne him wel, as of so litel space, 
In hope to standen in his ladies grace. 
Embroidered was he, as it were a mede 
Alle ful of freshe flowres, white and rede. 
Singing he was or floyting alle the day, 
He was as freshe as is the moneth of May. 


Short was his gowne, with sieves long and wide, 

Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride. 

He coude songes make, and wel endite, 

Juste and eke dance, and wel poutraie and write. 

So hot he loved that by nightertale 

He slep no more than doth a nightingale. 

Curteis he was, lowly and servisable, 

And carf before his fader at the table." 

Young noblemen and eldest sons of landed gentlemen were made knights, 
as a matter of course, when they had attained the proper age Many others 

The Knight. 409 

won for themselves this chivalric distinction by their deeds of arms in the 
field, and sometimes in the lists. The ceremony was essentially a religious 
one, and the clergy used sometimes to make a knight In the Royal 
14. E. IV. f. 89, we see a picture of Lancelot being made a knight, in which 
an abbess even is giving him the accolade by a stroke of the hand. But 
usually, though religious ceremonies accompanied the initiation, and the 
office for making a knight still remains in the Roman Office Book, some 
knight of fame actually conferred " the high order of knighthood." It was 
not unusual for young men of property who were entitled to the honour by 
birth and heirship to be required by the king to assume it, for the sake 
of the fine which was paid to the crown on the occasion. Let us here 
introduce, as a pendant to Chaucer's portrait of the squire already given, 
his equally beautiful portrait of a knight; not a young knight-errant, 
indeed, but a grave and middle-aged warrior, who has seen hard service, 
and is valued in council as well as in field : — 

1 A knight ther was, and that a worthy man, 
That from the time that he firste began 
To riden out, he loved chivalry, 
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie. 
Ful wortnie was he in his lorde's werre, 
And thereto hadde he ridden, no man ferre, 
As wel in Christendom as in Hethenesse, 
And ever honoured for his worthinesse. 

At Alesandre he was when it was wonne, 
Ful oftentime he hadde the bord begonne, 
Aboven all nations in Pruce. 
• *•••• 

At many a noble army hadde he be, 
At mortal batailles had he been fiftene, 
And foughten for our faith in Tramisene 
In listes thries, and ever slaine his fo. 

And tho that he was worthy he was wise, 
And of his port as meke as is a mayde : 
He never yet no vilanie had sayde 
In alle his lif unto any manere wyht. 
He was a very parfit gentle knight. 

But for to tellen you of his arraie, 
His hors was good, but he was not gaie; 

4IO The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

Of fustian he wered a jupon, 
All besmotred with his habergeon. 
For he was late ycom fro his viage, 
And wente for to don his pilgrimage." 

Men who are in the constant habit of bearing arms are certain to engage 
in friendly contests with each other ; it is the only mode in which they can 
acquire skill in the use of their weapons, and it affords a manly pastime. 
That such men should turn encounters with an enemy into trials of skill, 
subject to certain rules of fairness and courtesy, though conducted with 
sharp weapons and in deadly earnest, is also natural.* And thus we are 
introduced to a whole series of military exercises and encounters, from the 
mere holiday pageant in which the swords are of parchment and the spears 
headless, to the wager of battle, in which the combatants are clad in linen, 
while their weapons are such as will lop off a limb, and the gallows awaits 
the vanquished. 

Homer shows us how the Greek battles were little else than a series of 
single combats, and Roman history furnishes us with sufficient examples 

* In illustration of the way in which actual warfare was sometimes treated as if it were 
a chivalrous trial of skill, take the following anecdote from Froissart ; on the occasion 
when the French had bribed Amery de Puy, the governor, to betray Calais, and fell into 
the ambush which Edward III. set for them, and the king himself fought under the banner 
of Sir Walter Murray : — " The Kyng lyht on the Lord Eustace of Rybemount, who was 
a strong and a hardy knyht ; there was a long fyht bytwene hym and the kyng that it 

was joy to beholde them The knight strake the kyng the same day two tymes on 

his knees ; but finally the kynge himself toke hym prisoner, and so he yelded his sword 
to the kyng and sayd, Sir Knyght, I yeled me as your prisoner, he knewe not as then 
that it was the kyng." In the evening the king gave a supper in the castle, at which 
the French prisoners sat as guests; and, " when supper was done and the tables take 
away, the kyng taryed styll in the hall with his knyghtes and with the Frenchmen, and 
he was bare-heeded, savyng a chapelet of fyne perles that he ware on his heed. Than 

the kyng went fro one to another of the Frenchmen Than the kyng come to Sir 

Eustace of Rybamont, and joyously to hym he said, • Sir Eustace, ye are the knyht in 
the worlde that I have sene moost valyant assayle his ennemyes and defende hymselfe, nor 
I never founde knyght that ever gave me so moche ado, body to body, as ye have done 
this day ; wherefore I give you the price above all the knyghtes of my court by ryht sentence.' 
Then the kyng took the chapelet that was upon his heed, >eying bothe faire, goodly, and 
ryche, and sayd, ' Sir Eustace, I gyve you this chapelet for the best doar in armes in this 
journey past of either party, and I desire you to bere it thT*j yere for the love of me ; say 
whersover ye come that I dyd give it you ; and I quyte you your prison and ransom, and 
ye shall depart to-morowe ir it please you.' " 

Military Exercises, 4*1 

of such combats preluding the serious movements of opposing armies, and 
affording an augury, it was believed, of their issue. Sacred history supplies 
us with examples of a similar kind. In the story of Goliath we have the 
combat of two champions in the face of the hosts drawn up in battle array. 
A still more striking incident is that where Abner and the servants of 
Ishbosheth, and Joab and the servants of David, met accidentally at the 
pool of Gibeon. " And they sat down the one on the one side of the pool, 
and the other on the other. And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men 
now arise and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise." So 
twelve men on each side met, " and they caught every one his fellow by 
the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow's side, so they fell down 
together." And afterwards the lookers-on took to their arms, and "there 
was a very sore battle that day ; and Abner was beaten, and the men of 
Israel, before the servants of David."* 

Our own history contains incidents enough of the same kind, from 
Tailefer the minstrel-warrior, who rode ahead of the army of Duke William 
at Hastings, singing the song of Roland and performing feats of dexterity 
in the use of horse and weapons, and then charging alone into the ranks of 
the Saxon men, down to the last young aide-de-camp who has pranced up 
to the muzzle of the guns to u show the way " to a regiment to which he 
had brought an order to carry a battery. 

In the Middle Ages these combats, whether they were mere pageants + 
or sportive contests with more or less of the element of danger, or were 
waged in deadly earnest, were, in one shape or other, of very common 
occurrence, and were reduced to system and regulated by legislation. 

When only two combatants contended, it was called jousting. If only a 
friendly trial of skill was contemplated, the lances were headed with a small 
coronal instead of a sharp point ; if the sword were used at all it was with 

* 2 Samuel ii. 

t Such as that which took place at Windsor Park in the sixth year of Edward I., for 
which, according to a document in the Record Office at the Tower (printed in the 
■ Archselogia," vol. xvii. p. 297), it appears that the knights were armed in a tunic 
and surcoat, a helmet of leather gilt or silvered, with crests of parchment, a wooden 
shield, and a sword of parchment, silvered and strengthened with whalebone, with 
gilded hilts. 

4 1 2 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

the sdge only, which would very likely inflict no wound at all on a well- 
armed man, or at most only a flesh wound, not with the point, which might 
penetrate the opening of the helmet or the joints of the armour, and inflict 
a fatal hurt. This was the joute a plaisance. If the combatants were 
allowed to use sharp weapons, and to put forth all their force and skill 
against one another, this was the joute d Foutrance, and was of common 
enough occurrence. 

When many combatants fought on each side, it was called a tournament. 
Such sports were sometimes played in gorgeous costumes, but with weapons 
of lath, to make a spectacle in honour of a festal occasion. Sometimes 
the tournament was with bated weapons, but was a serious trial of skill 
and strength. And sometimes the tournament was even a mimic battle, 
and then usually between the adherents of hostile factions which sought 
thus to gratify their mutual hatreds, or it was a chivalrous incident in a war 
between two nations. 

With these general introductory remarks, we shall best fulfil our purpose 
by at once proceeding to bring together a few illustrations from ancient 
sources, literary and pictorial, of these warlike scenes. 

A MS. in the Egerton Collection, in the British Museum, gives us a 
contemporary account of the mode in which it was made known to knights 
ambitious of honour and their ladies' praise when and where opportunities 
of winning them were to be found. The herald s-at-arms of the king, or 
lord, or noble, or knight, or lady who designed to give a joust, went forth on 
horseback to castle and town, and sometimes from court to court of foreign 
countries, clad in their gay insignia of office, attended by a trumpeter; 
and in every castle court they came to, and at every market cross, first the 
trumpeter blew his blast and then the herald-at-arms made his proclamation 
as follows : — " Wee herawldes of amies beryng shields of devise, here we 
yeve in knowledge unto all gentilmen of name and of armys, that there bee 
VI gentilmen of name and of armes that for the gret desire and woorship 
that the seide VI gentilmen have, have taken upon them to bee the third 
day of May next coomyng before the high and mighty redowtid ladyes and 
gentilwoomen in this high and most honourable court. And in their 
presence tire seide six gentilmen there to appear at IX of the clock before 

The Tournamft^ 413 

noone, and to juste aginst all coomers without, the seide day unto VI of 
the clok at aftir noone, and then, by the advyse of the seide ladyes and 
gentel women, to give unto the best juster withoute * a dyamaunde of xl H , 
and unto the nexte beste juster a rubie of xx u , and to the third well juster 
a saufir of x\ And on the seide day there beyng officers of armys shewyng 
their mesure of theire speris garneste, that is, cornal, vamplate, and grapers 
all of acise, that they shall just with. And that the comers may take the 
length of the seide speirs with the avise of the seide officers of armes that 
shall be indifferent unto all parties unto the seide day." t 

Then we have a description of the habiliments required for a knight's 
equipment for such an occasion, which includes a suit of armour and a 
horse with his trappings ; an armourer with hammer and pincers to fasten 
the armour; two servants on horseback well beseen, who are his two 
squires ; and six servants on foot all in one suit. 

As the day approaches knights and ladies begin to flock in from all 
points of the compass. Some are lodged in the castle, some find chambers 
in the neighbouring town, and some bring tents with them and pitch them 
under the trees in the meadows without the castle. At length the day has 
arrived, and the knights are up with sunrise and bathe, and then are care- 
fully armed by their squires and armourers. This is so important a matter 
that it is no wonder we find several minute descriptions of the way in 
which every article of clothing and armour is to be put on and fastened, 
illustrated with pictures of the knight in the several stages of the process. 
Two such descriptions with engravings are given in the twenty-ninth volume 
of the " Archaeologia," taken from the work of a master offence, of date 1400. 
Another description, " How a man shall be armyed at his ease when he 
shall fight on foot," is given in the Lansdowne MS. under our notice. The 
same description is given in the tenth volume of the Archaeological Journal, 
p. 226, from a MS. in the possession of Lord Hastings of the date of 
Henry VI., accompanied by an engraving from an illumination in the MS. 
showing the knight with his legs fully armed, his body clothed in the under- 

* i.e., of the strangers. The challengers are afterwards called the gentlemen within, 
t For other forms of challenge, and some very romnfic challenges at full length, see 
the Lansdowne MS. 285. 

Jousting. 4 * 5 

garment on which the gussets of mail are sewed, while the rest of his 
armour and his weapons are arranged on a bench beside him. The 
weapons are a glaive and a pole-axe, which were the usual weapons 
assigned to the combatants in serious duels on foot. When all is ready, 
and the company are assembled, the MS. tells us what next takes place : — 
" The VI gentilmen must come into the felde unharnsyd, and their helmys 
borne before them, and their servants on horseback berying either of them 
a spere gameste, that is the VI speres which the seide VI servaunts shall 
ride before them into the felde, and as the seide VI gentilmen be coomyn 
before the ladyes and gentilwoomen. Then shall be sent an herowde of 
armys up unto the ladyes and gentilwoomen, saying on this wise : High 
and mighty, redowtyd, and right worchyfull ladyes and gentilwoomen, 
theis VI gentilmen hav coome into your presence and recommende them 
all unto your gode grace in as lowly wise as they can, besechyng you for 
to geve unto the iii best justers without a diamonde, and a rubie, and a 
saufir unto them that ye think best can deserve it. Then this message is 
doone. Then the VI gentilmen goth into the tellwys* and doth on their 

Then comes the jousting. Probably, first of all, each of the six 
champions in turn runs one or more courses with a stranger knight ; then, 
perhaps, they finish by a miniature tournament, all six together against six 
of the strangers. Each strange knight who comes into the field has to 
satisfy the officer-at-arms that he is a " gentilman of name and of arms," 
and to take oath that he has no secret weapons or unfair advantage. The 
woodcut represents this moment of the story. This being ascertained, they 
take their places at the opposite ends of the lists, the presiding herald cries 
to let go, and they hurl together in the midst, with a clang of armour, and 
a crash of broken spears, amidst the shouts of the spectators and the 
waving of kerchiefs and caps. If the course be successfully run, each 
breaks his lance full on the breastplate or helm of his adversary, but neither 
is unhorsed ; they recover their steeds with rein and spur, and prance away 

* Probably the tilt-house (the shed or tent which they have in the field at one end of 
the lists). 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

amidst applause. If one knight is unhorsed, or loose his stirrup, he is 
vanquished, and retires from the game. If the jousting were not the mere 
sport which the MS. puts before us, but were a joute d Foutrance, the next 
woodcut represents a very probable variation in this point of the game. 

At length, when all have run their courses, the MS. resumes its direc- 
tions : " And when the heraldes cry a Ibstel I h lostel / then shall all the 

Spectators of a Tournament. 

VI. gentlemen within unhelme them before the seide ladies, and make their 
obeisaunce, and goo home unto their lodgings and change them." Then, 
continues the MS. : " The gentilmen* without comyn into the presence of 
the ladies. Then comys foorth a lady by the advise of all the ladyes and 
gentilwomen, and gives the diamounde unto the best juster withoute, saying 

• The Lansdowne MS. says " gentlewomen," an obvious error ; it is correctly givon 
as above in the Hastings MS. 

Jousting a Outrance. 417 

in this wise : — ' Sir, theis ladyes and gentilwomen thank you for your 
dispone and grete labour that ye have this day in their presence. And 
the saide ladyes and gentilwomen seyn that ye have best just this day ; 
therefore the seide ladyes and gentilwomen geven you this diamounde, and 
send you much joy and worship of your lady.' Thus shall be doone with 
the rubie and with the saufre unto the other two next the best justers. 
This doon, then shall the heralde of armys stande up all on hygh, and shall 
sey withall in high voice : — ' John hath well justed, Ric. hath justed better, 
and Thomas hath justed best of all.' Then shall he that the diamound is 
geve unto take a lady by the hande and bygene the daunce, and when the 
ladyes have dauncid as long as them liketh, then spyce wyne and drynk, 
and then avoide."* 

The last woodcut, greatly reduced from one of the fine tournament 
scenes in the MS. history of the Roi Meliadus, already several times quoted 
in this work, shows the temporary gallery erected for the convenience of the 
ladies and other spectators to witness the sports. The tent of one of the 
knights is seen in the background, and an indication of the hurly-burly of 
the combat below. A larger illustration of a similar scene from this fine 
MS. will be given hereafter. 

The next woodcut is from the MS. Life and Acts of Richard Beauchamp, 
Earl of Warwick (Julius E. IV., folio 217). It represents " howe a mighty 
Duke chalenged Erie Richard for his lady sake, and in justyng slewe the 
Duke and then the Empresse toke the Erie's staff and bear from a knight 
shouldre, and for great love and fauv* she sette it on her shouldre. Then 
Erie Richard made one of perle and p'cious stones, and offered her that, 
and she gladly and lovynglee reseaved it." The picture shows the Duke 
and Earl in the crisis of the battle. It would seem from the pieces of 
splintered spears, which already lie on the ground, that a previous course 
had been run with equal fortune ; but in this second course the doughty 
Earl has just driven his lance half a yard through his unfortunate chal- 

* Dugdale, in his " History of "Warwickshire," gives a curious series of pictures of the 
famous combat between John Astle and Piers de Massie in the year 1438, showing the 
various incidents of the combat. 



The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

lenger's breast. In the background we see the Emperor Sigismund, and 
the Empress taking the Earl's badge from the neck of the Earl's knight. 
The whole incident, so briefly told and so naively illustrated, is very 
characteristic of the spirit of chivalry. As we close the page the poor 

How a mighty Duke fought Earl Richard for his Lady's sake. 

nameless Duke's life-blood seems to be smeared, not only over his own 
magnificent armour, but over the hand of the Empress and the Emperor's 
purple who presided over the scene ; and while we seem to hear the fan- 
faronade with which the trumpeters are cracking their cheeks, we hear 

Wager of Battle. 4 1 9 

mingling with it the groan of the mighty Duke thus slain " for his lady 

A whole chapter might be well dedicated to the special subject of 
judicial combats. We must, however, content ourselves with referring the 
reader to authorities both literary and artistic, and to some anecdotes illus- 
trative of the subject In the Lansdowne MS. 285, copied for Sir John 
Paxton, will be found directions for the complete arming of a man who is 
to engage on foot in a judicial combat, with a list of the things, such as 
tent, table, chair, &c, which he should take into the field with him. The 
same MS. contains (article 8) the laws of the t ombat — " the ordinance 
and forme of fighting within listes," as settled by Thomas Duke of 
Gloucester, Constable of England, in the time of Richard II. Also in 
Tiberius E. VIII. there are directions for making a duel before the king. 
There are other similar documents in the same book, e.g. Of the order of 
knighthood, justs and prizes to be given thereat : The Earl of Worcester's 
orders for jousts and triumphs : Declaration of a combat within lists. The 
MS. Tiberius B. VIII. contains the form of benediction of a man about to 
fight, and of his shield, club, and sword. For a picture of a combat on foot 
in lists see Royal 16 E. IV. (MS. "Chronique d'Angleterre," written for 
King Edward IV.) at f. 264.* In the " Archaeologia," vol. xxix., p. 348-361, 
will be found a paper on Judicial Duels in Germany, with a series of 
curious drawings of about the year 1400 a.d., representing the various 
phases of the combat. Plate 31, fig. 5, shows the combatant in the act of 
being armed; fig. 6, receiving Holy Communion in church before the 
combat. Plate 32, fig. 2, the oath in the lists, the combatant seated armed 
in an arm-chair with his attendants about him, his weapons around, and — 
ominously enough — a bier standing by, covered with a pall, ready to carry 
him off the ground if slain. Plate 34, fig. 2, shows the vanquished actually 
being laid in his coffin ; and fig. 3 shows the victor returning thanks in 
church for his victory. Plate 37 is another series of subjects showing the 

* The Harleian MS. No. 69, is a book of certain triumphs, containing proclamations 
of tournaments, statutes of arms for their regulation, and numerous other documents 
relating to the subject From folio 20 and onwards are given pictures of combats ; folio 
22 v. represents spear-play at the barriers ; folio 23, sword-play at the barriers, &c 

420 The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

different positions of attack and defence with the pole-axe. Several very 
good and spirited representations of these duels of the time of our 
Henry VIII. may be found in the plates of Hans Burgmaier's Der Weise 

As an example of the wager of battle we will take an account of one 
related by Froissart between a squire called Jaques de Grys and a knight, 
Sir John of Carougne. It is necessary to the understanding of some of the 
incidents of the narrative to state what was the origin of the duel. The 
knight and the squire were friends, both of the household of the Earl of 
Alencon. Sir John de Carougne went over sea for the advancement of 
his honour, leaving his lady in his castle. On his return his lady informed 
him that one day soon after his departure his friend Jaques de Grys paid 
a visit to her, and made excuses to be alone with her, and then by force 
dishonoured her. The knight called his and her friends together, and 
asked their counsel what he should do. They advised that he should make 
his complaint to the Earl. The Earl called the parties before him, when 
the lady repeated her accusation ; but the squire denied it, and called 
witnesses to prove that at four o'clock on the morning of the day on which 
the offence was stated to have been committed he was at his lord the 
Earl's house, while the Earl himself testified that at nine o'clock he was 
with himself at his leve'e. It was impossible for him between those two 
hours — that is, four hours and a half — to have ridden twenty-three leagues. 
" Whereupon the Erl sayd to the lady that she dyd but dreame it, where- 
fore he wolde maynteyne his squyre, and commanded the lady to speke 
noe more of the matter. But the knyght, who was of great courage, and 
well trusted and byleved his wife, would not agree to that opinion, but 
he wente to Parys and shewed the matter there to the parlyament, and 
there appeled Jaques de Grys, who appered and answered to his appele." 
The plea between them endured more than a year and a half. At length 
"the parlyament determined that there shold be batayle at utterance 
between them. . . . And the Kynge sent to Parys, commandynge that 
the journey and batayle bytwene the squyer and the knight sholde be 
relonged tyl his comynge to Parys: and so his commaundement was 
obeyed. . . . 

Wager of Battle. 4 2 1 

" Then the lystes were made in a place called Saynt Katheryne, behynde 
the Temple. There was so moche people that it was mervayle to beholde ; 
and on the one syde of the lystes there was made grete scaffoldes, that the 
lordes myght the better se the battayle of the ij champions ; and so they 
bothe came to the felde, armed at all places, and there eche of them was 
set in theyr chayre." * 

" The Erie of Saynt Poule governed John of Carougne, and the Erie of 
Alanson's company with Jaques de Guys. And when the knyght entered 
into the felde, he came to his wyfe who was there syttinge in a chayre, 
covered in blacke, and he seyd to her thus, — Dame, by your enformacyon 
and in your quarele I do put my lyfe in adventure as to fyght with Jaques 
le Grys ; ye knowe if the cause be just and true. Syr, sayd the lady, it 
is as I have sayd ; wherfore ye may fyght surely, the cause is good and 
true. With those wordes the knyghte kyssed the lady and toke her by the 
hande, and then blessyd her, and so entered into the felde. The lady sate 
styll in the blacke chayre in her prayers to God and to the Vyrgyne Mary, 
humbly prayenge them, by theyr specyall grace, to sende her husbande 
the vyctory accordynge to the ryght he was in. The lady was in grete 
hevynes, for she was not sure of her lyfe ; for yf her husbande sholde 
have been discomfyted she was judged without remedy to be brente and 
her husbande hanged. I cannot say whether she repented her or not yt 
the matter was so forwarde, that bothe she and her husbande were in 
grete peryle ; howbeit fynally she must as then abyde the adventure. Then 
these two champyons were set one agaynst another, and so mounted on 
theyr horses and behaved them nobly, for they knew what pertayned to 
deades of armes. There were many lordes and knyghtes of France that 
were come thyder to se that batayle : ye two champyons parted at theyr 
first metyng, but none of them dyd hurte other ; and upon the justes they 
lyghted on foote to performe their batayle, and soe fought valyauntly j and 
fyrst John of Carougne was hurt in the thyghe, whereby al his friendes 
were in grete fear ; but after that he fought so valyauntly that he bette 

* In the picture given by Dugdale of the combat between John Astle and Piers de 
Massie, the combatants are represented each sitting in his chair — a great carvad chair, 
something like the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. 

422 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

down his adversary to the erthe, and thruste his sworde in his body, and so 
slew hym on the felde; and then he demaunded yf he had done his 
devoyre or not ; and they answered that he had valyauntly acheved his 
batayle. Then Jaques le Grys was delyvered to the hangman of Parys, 
and he drew him to the gybet of Mount Faucon and there hanged hym 
up. Then John of Carougne came before the Kynge and kneeled downe 
and ye Kynge made hym to stand up before hym, and the same day the 
kynge caused to be delyvered to hym a thousand frankes, and reteyned hym 
to be of his chambre with a pencyon of ij hundred poundes by the yere 
durynge the term of his lyfe ; then he thanked the Kynge and the lordes, 
and wente to his wyfe and kyssed her, and then they wente togyder to the 
churche of Our Lady in Parys, and made theyr offerynge and then 
retourned to theyr lodgynges. Then this Syr John of Carougne taryed 
not long in France, but wente to vysyte the Holy Sepulture." 



|HE romances, confirmed as they are by such documents as we 
have referred to in our last paper, may be taken as perfectly 
safe authorities on all that relates to the subject of tournaments, 
and they seize upon their salient features, and offer them in a picturesque 
form very suitable to our purpose. We will take all our illustrations, as 
in former chapters, from Malory's " History of Prince Arthur." 

Here is a statement of the way in which a tournament was arranged 
and published : " So it befel, that Sir Galahalt the haughty Prince was 
lord of the country of Surluse, whereof came many good knights. And 
this noble prince was a passing good man of arms, and ever he held a 
noble fellowship together. And he came unto King Arthur's court, and 
told him all his intent, how he would let do cry a justs in the country of 
Surluse, the which country was within the lands of King Arthur, and that 
he asked leave for to let cry a justs. ' I will well give you leave,' said 
King Arthur, ' but wot you well that I may not be there.' So in every 
good town and castle of this land was made a cry, that in the country of 
Surluse Sir Galahalt the haughty prince should make justs that should last 
eight days, and how the haughty prince, with the help of Queen Guenever's 
knights, should just against all manner of men that would come. When 
the cry was known kings, princes, dukes, and earls, barons, and many 
noble knights made them ready to be at that justs." 

So we read in another place how as Sir Tristram was riding through 
the country in search of adventures, " he met with pursevants, and they 
told him that there was made a great cry of a tournament between King 

424 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

Carados of Scotland and the King of Northgales, and either should just 
against other at the Castle of Maidens. And these pursevants sought all 
the country for the good knights, and in especial King Carados let seek 
for Sir Launcelot, and the King of Northgales let seek for Sir Tristram." 
Then we find how all the reckless knights-errant suddenly become prudent, 
in order to keep themselves fresh and sound for this great tournament. 
Thus : " Sir Kay required Sir Tristram to just ; and Sir Tristram in a manner 
refused him, because he would not go hurt nor bruised to the Castle of 
Maidens ; and therefore he thought to have kept him fresh and to rest him." 
But his prudence was not proof against provocation, for when Sir Kay per- 
sisted, he rode upon him and " smote down Sir Kay, and so rode on his 
way." So Sir Palomides said, " Sir, I am loth to do with that knight, and the 
cause why for as to-morrow the great tournament shall be, and therefore I will 
keep me fresh, by my will." But being urged he consented : * Sir, I will just 
at your request, and require that knight to just with me, and often I have 
seen a man have a fall at his own request ;" a sage reflection which was 
prophetic. It was Sir Launcelot in disguise whom he was moved thus to 
encounter ; and Sir Launcelot " smote him so mightily that he made him 
to avoid his saddle, and the stroke brake his shield and hawberk, and had 
he not fallen he had been slain." 

No doubt a great company would be gathered on the eve of the tourna- 
ment, and there would be much feasting and merriment, and inquiry what 
knights were come to just, and what prospects had this man and the other 
of honour and lady's grace, or of shame and a fall. Here is such an 
incident : — " Then Sir Palomides prayed Queen Guenever and Sir Galahalt 
the haughty prince to sup with him, and so did both Sir Launcelot and 
Sir Lamorake and many good knights ; and in the midst of their supper in 
came Sir Dinadan, and he began to rail. ' Well/ said Sir Dinadan unto Sir 
Launcelot, ' what the devil do you in this country, for here may no mean 
knights win no worship for thee ; and I ensure thee that I shall never meet 
thee no more, nor thy great spear, for I may not sit in my saddle when that 
spear meet me ; I shall beware of that boisterous spear that thou bearest.' 
Then laughed Queen Guenever and the haughty prince that they might not 
sit at table. Thus they made great joy till the morrow ; and then they heard 

The Tournament 


mass, and blew to the field. And Queen Gu en ever and all their estates 
were set, and judges armed clean with their shields for to keep the right" 

It would take up too much space to transcribe the account of the tour- 
nament ; the romancers and chroniclers dwell on every stroke, and 
prolong the narrative through page after page. We leave the reader to 


The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

imagine to himself the crowd of meaner knights " hurtling together like wild 
boars," and " lashing at each other with great strokes " ; and can only tell one 
or two unusual deeds which caused most talk among the knights and ladies, 
and supplied new matter for the heralds and minstrels to record. How 
Sir Launcelot rushed against Sir Dinadan with the " boisterous spear " he 
had deprecated, and bore him back on his horse croup, that he lay there 
as dead, and had to be lifted off by his squires ; and how Sir Lamorake 
struck Sir Kay on the helm with his sword, that he swooned in the saddle ; 
and how Sir Tristram avoided Sir Palomides' spear, and got him by the 
neck with both his hands, and pulled him clean out of his saddle, and so 

Cabriolet of the Fourteenth Century. 

bore him before him the length of ten spears, and then, in the presence of 
them all, let him fall at his adventure ; " until at last the haughty prince 
cried ' Hoo ! ' and then they blew to lodging, and every knight unarmed 
him and went to the great feast." We may, however, quote one brief sum- 
mary of a tournament which gives us several pictures worth adding to our 
story : — " Sir Launcelot mounted his horse and rode into a forest and held 
no high way. And as he looked afore him he saw a fair plain, and beside 
that plain stood a fair castle, and before that castle were many pavilions of 
silk and of divers hue ; and him seemed that he saw there five hundred 
knights riding on horseback ; and there was two parties ; they that were 

The Tournament. 427 

of the castle were all in black, their horses and their trappings black ; and 
they that were without were all upon white horses with white trappours. 
And every each hurled to other, whereof Sir Launcelot marvelled greatly. 
And at the last him thought that they of the castle were put unto the 
worst ; and then thought Sir Launcelot for to help the weaker part in 
increasing of his chivalry. And so Sir Launcelot thrust in among the 
parties of the castle, and smote down a knight, both horse and man, to 
the earth : and then he rushed here and there and did marvellous deeds 
of arms ; but always the white knights held them nigh about Sir Launcelot, 
for to weary him and win him. And at the last, as a man may not ever 
endure, Sir Launcelot waxed so faint of fighting, and was so weary of great 
deeds, that he might not lift up his arms for to give one stroke." 

Now for some extracts to illustrate the prize of the tournament : " Turn 
we unto Ewaine, which rode westward with his damsel, and she brought 
him there as was a tournament nigh the march of Wales. And at that 
tournament Sir Ewaine smote down thirty knights, wherefore the prize 
was given him, and the prize was a jerfawcon and a white steed trapped 
with a cloth of gold." Sir Marhaus was equally fortunate under similar 
circumstances : — " He departed, and within two days his damsel brought 
him to where as was a great tournament, that the Lady de Vaux had 
cried ; and who that did best should have a rich circlet of gold worth a 
thousand besants. And then Sir Marhaus did so nobly that he was 
renowned to have smitten down forty knights, and so the circlet of gold 
was rewarded to him." 

Again : — " There was cried in this country a great just three days. 
And all the knights of this country were there, and also the gendewomen. 
And who that proved him the best knigh: should have a passing good 
sword and a circlet of gold, and the circlet the knight should give to the 
fairest lady that was at those justs. And this knight Sir Pelleas was the 
best knight that was there, and there were five hundred knights, but there 
was never man that Sir Pelleas met withal but that he struck him down 
or else from his horse. And every day of the three days he struck down 
twenty knights j therefore they gave him the prize. And forthwithal he 
went there as the Lady Ettarde was, and gave her the circlet, ard said 

A Tournament 

The Passage of Arms at St. Inglebert'' s. 429 

openly that she was the fairest lady that was there, and that he would 
prove upon any knight that would say nay." 

The accompanying woodcut is a reduced copy of the half of one of the 
many tournament scenes which run along the lower part of the double 
page of the MS. romance of " Le Roi Meliadus," already so often alluded 
to. They are, perhaps, the most spirited of all the contemporary pictures of 
such scenes, and give every variety of incident, not out of the imagination 
of a modern novelist, but out of the memory of one who had frequented 
deeds of arms and noted their incidents with an artist's eye. 

For an actual historical example of the tournament in which a number 
of knights challengers undertake to hold the field against all comers, we 
will take the passage of arms at St. Inglebert's, near Calais, in the days of 
Edward III., because it is very fully narrated by Froissart, and because 
the splendid MS. of Froissart in the British Museum (Harl. 4,379) supplies 
us with a magnificent picture of the scene. Froissart tells that it hap- 
pened in this wise : — " In ye dayes of King Charles there was an Englisshe 
knyght called Sir Peter Courteney, a valyaunt knight in armes, came out 
of Englande into Fraunce to Paris, and demanded to do armes with Sir 
Guy of Tremoyle * in the presence of the king or of suche as wolde se 
them. Sir Guy wolde not refuce his offre, and in the presence of the kyng 
and of other lordes they were armed on a daye and ran togeyder one 
course ; and then the kyng wolde not suffre them to ryn agayne togeyther, 
wherwith the English knyght was ryt evyl content, for, as he shewed, he 
wolde have furnysshed his chalenge to the uttrance ; but he was apeased 
with fayre wordes, and it was sayde to hym that he had done ynough and 
ought to be content therewith. The kyng and the duke of Burgoyne 
gave hym fayre gyftes and presentes. Than he returned agayne towardes 
Calays, and the lorde of Clary, who was a friscay and a lusty knyght, was 
charged to convey hym." One night they lodged at Lucen, where lived 
the Countess of St. Paul, sister to King Richard of England, whose first 
wife had been a cousin of Sir Peter's, and who therefore received them 
gladly. In the course of the evening the countess asked Sir Peter 

• Tremouille. 

43° The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

whether he was content with the entertainment he had met with in France. 
Whereupon the knight complained of the interruption of his combat, 
swore he should say wherever he went that he could find none in France 
to do armes with him ; that had a French knight, for example the Lord of 
Clary then present, come into England and desired to do armes, he would 
have found enough to answer his challenge. The Lord of Clary having 
Sir Peter then placed under his safe conduct by the king, held his tongue 
till he had brought him within the English territory about Calais ; then he 
challenged Sir Peter, and next day they met. " Then they toke their 
speares with sharpe heades wel fyled, and spurred their horses and rune 
togeyder. The fyrst course fayled, wherwith they were bothe sore dis- 
pleased. At the seconde juste they mette so togeyder, that the Lord of 
Clary struke the Englysshe knyght throughe the targe and throughe the 
shoulder a handfull, and therwith he fell from his horse to the erthe. . . . 
Then the Lord of Clary departed with his company, and the Englysshe- 
men led Sir Peter Courtney to Calays to be healed of his hurtes." 

This incident stirred up several young French knights to undertake 
some feat of arms. " There was thre gentylmen of highe enterprise and 
of great valure, and that they well shewed as ye shall here. Fyrst there 
was the yonge Sir Bouciquaut, the other Sir Raynold of Roy, and the 
thirde the Lorde of Saynt Pye. These thre knyghtes were chamberleyns 
with the kyng, and well-beloved of hym. These thre being at Mount- 
pellier among the ladyes and damosels, they toke on them to do armes on 
the fronter beside Calais the next somer after . . . abyding all knyghtes 
and squiers straungers the terme of xxx dayes whosoever wolde juste with 
them in justes of peace or of warre. And because the enterprise of these 
thre knyghtes seemed to the French kyng and his counsalye to be an 
high enterprice, then it was said to them that they shulde putte it into 
writyng, because the kyng wolde se the artycles thereof, that if they were 
to high or to outraygous that the kyng might amende them ; bycause the 
kyng nor his counsalye wolde not sustayne any thynge that shoulde be 
unresonable. These thre knyghtes answered and said, ' It is but reson 
that we do this ; it shall be done.' Then they toke a clerk and caused 
him to write as forthwith : — ' For the great desyre that we have to come 

The Passage of Arms at St. Ingleberf s. 431 

to the knowledge of noble gentlemen, knights and squires, straungers as 
well of the realme of France, as elsewhere of farre countreys, we shall be 
at Saynt Inglebertes, in the marches of Calays, the twenty day of the 
month of May next commying, and there contynewe thirtye dayes com- 
plete, the Frydayes onely excepte ; and to delyver all manner of knyghtes 
and squyers, gentlemen, straungers of any manner of nacyon whatsoever 
they be, that wyll come thyder for the breakynge of fiyve speares, outher 
sharpe or rokettes at their pleasure,' " &c 

The challenge was " openly declared and publyshed, and especially in 
the realme of Englande," for it was in truth specially intended at English 
knights, and they alone appear to have accepted the challenge. " For in 
England knyghtes and squiers were quyckened to the mater, and ware in 
gret imagynacions to know what they might best do. Some said it 
shulde be greatly to their blame and reproche such an enterprise taken so 
nere to Calays without they passed the see and loke on those knyghtes 
that shulde do arms there. Such as spake most of the mater was, first, 
Syr Johan of Holande Erie of Huntyngdon, who had great desyre to go 
thyder, also Sir Johan Courtney . . . and dyvers others, more than a 
hundred knyghtes and squiers, all then sayed, ' Let us provyde to go to 
Calays, for the knyghtes of Fraunce hath not ordayned that sporte so nere 
our marches but to the entent to see us there ; and surely they have done 
well and do lyke good companions, and we shall not fayle them at their 
busynes.' This mater was so publisshed abrode in Englande, that many 
such as had no desyn to do dedes of armes ther on self, yet they sayd 
they wolde be there to loke on them that shulde. So at the entryng in of 
ye joly fresshe month of May these thre young knyghtes of Fraunce come 
to the Abbay of Saynt Ingilbertes, and they ordayned in a fayre playne 
between Calays and Saynt Ingilbertes thre fresh grene pavilyons to be 
pyght up, and at the entre of every pavylyon there hanged two sheldes 
with the armes of the knyghtes, one shelde of peace, another of warre ; 
and it was ordayned that such as shulde ryn and do dedes of armes shulde 
touche one of the sheldes or cause it to be touched. And on the xxi day 
of the moneth of May, accordyng as it had been publisshed, there the 
French knyghtes were redy in the place to furnish their enterprise. And 

43 2 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

the same day knyghtes and squiers issued out of Calays, suche as wolde 
just, and also such other as had pleasure to regarde that sporte ; and they 
came to the place appoynted and drew all on the one parte : the place to 
juste in was fayre green and playne. Sir Johan Hollande first sent to 
touche the shelde of warre of Syr Bociquaut, who incontinent issued out 
of his pavylyon redy mounted, with shelde and speare : these two 
knyghtes drew fro other a certayne space, and when each of them had 
well advysed other, they spurred their horses and came together rudely, 
and Bociquaut struke the Erie of Huntingdon through the shelde, and 
the speare head glente over his arme and dyd hym no hurt ; and so they 
passed further and turned and rested at their pease. This course was 
greatly praysed. The second course they met without any hurt doygne ; 
and the third course their horses refused and wolde not cope." And so 
Froissart goes on to describe, in page after page, how the English knights, 
one after another, encountered the three challengers with various fortune, 
till at last M they ran no more that day, for it was nere night. Then the 
Englysshmen drew togeder and departed, and rode to Calays, and there 
devysed that night of that had been done that day; in likewyse the 
Frenchmen rode to Saint Ingilbertes and communed and devysed of 
yt had been done ye same day." " The Tuesday, after masse, all suche 
as shulde just that day or wolde gyve the lookyng on, rode out of Calis 
and came to the place appoynted, and the Frenchmen were redy there to 
recyve them : the day was fayre and hot." And so for four days the 
sports continued. In many cases the course failed through fault of horse 
or man ; the commonest result of a fair course was that one or both 
the justers were unhelmed; a few knights were unhorsed; one knight 
was wounded, the spear passing through the shield and piercing the arm, 
where " the spere brake, and the trunchon stucke styll in the shelde and 
in the knyhte's arme ; yet for all yt the knyght made his turn and came to 
his place fresshly." 

The illuminator has bestowed two large and beautiful pictures on this 
famous deed of arms. One at folio 230 represents the knights parading 
round the lists to show themselves before the commencement of the sports. 
Our woodcut on page 434 is reduced from another picture at folio 43, 

The Passage of Arms at St. Ingleberfs 433 

which represents the actual combat There are the three handsome 
pavilions of the knights challengers, each with its two shields — the shield 
of peace and the shield of war — by touching which each juster might 
indicate whether he chose to fight " in love or in wrath." There are the 
galleries hung with tapestries, in which sit the knights and ladies " as had 
pleasure to regard that sporte." There are the groups of knights, and the 
judges of the field ; and there in the foreground are two of the gallant 
knights in full career, attended by their squires. 

It will be interesting to the artist to know something of the colours of 
the knightly costumes. The knight on this side the barrier has his horse 
trapped in housings of blue and gold, lined with red, and the bridle to 
match ; the saddle is red. The knight is in armour of steel, his shield is 
emblazoned or, three hearts gules ; he bears as a crest upon his helmet 
two streamers of some transparent material like lawn. His antagonist's 
horse is trapped with red and gold housings, and bridle to match. He 
wears a kind of cape on his shoulders of cloth of gold ; his shield is blue. 
Of the knights on the (spectator's) left of the picture, one has horse 
trappings of gold and red embroidery lined with plain red, his shield 
yellow (not gold) with black bearings ; another has blue and gold trap- 
pings, with shield red, with white bearings. Of the knights on the right, 
one has horse-trappings blue and gold laced with red, and shield red and 
white ; the other trappings red and gold, shield yellow. The squires are 
dressed thus : the limbs encased in armour, the body clothed in a jupon, 
which is either green embroidery on red ground or red embroidery on 
green ground. The pavilions are tinted red, with stripes of a darker 
red. The shields of the challengers are — on the left tent, azure, three 
hearts argent; on the middle, vert, three hearts or; on the right, or, three 
hearts gules. 

We have drawn upon the romancer and the historian to illustrate the 
subject; we have cited ancient documents, and copied contemporary 
pictures ; we will call upon the poet to complete our labour. Chaucer, in 
the Knight's Tale, gives a long account of a just a Poutrance between 
Palamon and Arcite and a hundred knights a-side, which came to pass 
thus : Palamon and Arcite, two cousins and swom brothers-in-arms, had the 

2 F 

The Tournament of Pa lamon and Arcite. 435 

misfortune both to fall in love with Emily, the younger sister of Ipolyta, 
the Queen of Theseus Duke-regnant of Athens. Theseus found the two 
young men, one May morning, in the wood engaged in a single combat. 

" This Duke his courser with his spurres smote, 
And at a start he was betwixt them two, 
And pulled out his sword and cried Ho ! 
No more, up pain of losing of your head." 

After discovering the cause of their enmity, the Duke ordained that 

that day fifty weeks each should bring a hundred knights ready to fight in 

the lists on his behalf — 

" And whether he or thou 
Shall with his hundred as I speak of now 
Sky his contrary or out of listes drive, 
Him shall I given Emilie to wive." 

Each of the rivals rode through the country far and near during the 
fifty weeks, to enlist valiant knights to make up his hundred ; and on the 
eve of the appointed day each party rode into Athens ; and, says Chaucer, 
" never did so small a band comprise so noble a company of knights " : — 

" For every wight that loved chevalrie, 
And wolde, his thankes, have a lasting name, 
Hath praied that he might ben of that game, 
And well was he that thereto chosen was." 

And the poet goes on with this testimony to the chivalrous feeling of his 
own time : — 

" For if there fell to-morrow such a case, 
Ye knowen well that every lusty knyght 
That loveth par amour, and hath his might, 
Were it in Engleland or elleswhere, 
They wolde, hir thankes, willen to be there." 

At length the day arrives : — 

" Gret was the feste in Athens thilke day. 
* • • 

And on the morrow when the day gan spring, 
Of horse and harness, noise and clattering 
There was in all the hostelries about : 
And to the palace rode there many a rout 
Of lordes upon stedes and palfries. 
There mayst thou see devising of hamew 

436 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

So uncouth and so riche, and wrought so well, 
Of goldsmithry, of brouding, and of steel ; 
The shieldes bright, testeres, and trappours ; 
Gold-hewen helms, hawberks, cote-armures ; 
Lordes in parements on their coursers, 
Knyghts of retenue and eke squires, 
Nailing the speares and helms buckeling, 
Gniding of shields with lainers lacing ; 
There, as need is, they were nothing idle. 
The foaming steedes on the golden bridle 
Gnawing, and fast the armourers also 
With file and hammer pricking to and fro ; 
Yeomen on foot, and commons many a one, 
With shorte staves thick as they may gon ; 
Pipes, trompes, nakeres, and clariouns, 
That in the battaille blowen bloody sounes. 
The palais full of people up and down. 

• • • . 

Duke Theseus is at a window sette, 
Arraied right as he were a god in throne ; 
The people presseth thitherward full soon 
Him for to see, and do him reverence, 
And eke to hearken his heste and his sentence. 
An herauld on a scaffold made an O * 
Till that the noise of the people was ydo ; 
And when he saw the people of noise all still, 
Thus shewed he the mighty Dukes will." 

The Duke's will was, that none of the combatants should use any 

shot (i.e. any missile), or poleaxe, or short knife, or short pointed sword, 

but they were to run one course with sharp spears and then — 

" With long sword or with mace to fight their fill." 

However, any one who was forcibly drawn to a stake — of which one was 

planted at each end of the lists — should be hors de combat ; and if either 

of the leaders was slain or disabled or drawn to the stake, the combat 

should cease. 

" Up goe the trumpets and the melodie 
And to the listes rode the compaynie. 
By ordinance throughout the city large 
Hanged with cloth of gold, and not with serge. 
* * * 

And thus they passen through the citie 
* " Oyez I " or perhaps " Ho ! " 

The Tournament of Palamon and Ar cite. 437 

And to the listes comen they be-time 
It was not of the day yet fully prime, 
When set was Theseus full rich and high, 
Ipolita the queen and Emilie, 
And other ladies in degrees about, 
Unto the seates presseth all the rest" 

Then Arcite and his hundred knights enter through the western side 
of the lists under a red banner, and Palamon and his company at the 
same moment, under a white banner, enter by the eastern gates. 

** And in two ranges fayre they hem dresse, 
When that their names read were every one, 
That in their number guile were there none. 
Then were the gates shut, and cried was loud, 
« Do now your devoir, young knyghtes proud.' 
The herauldes left there pricking up and down ; 
Then ringen trompes loud and clarioun ; 
There is no more to say, but east and west, 
In go the speres quickly into rest, 
In goeth the sharpe spur into the side ; 
There see men who can juste and who can ride ; 
There shiver shafts upon sheldes thick, 
He feeleth through the herte-spoon the prick. 
Up springen speres, twenty foot in hyhte, 
Out go the swords as the silver bright 
The helmes they to-hewen and to-shred ; 
Out bursts the blood with steme streames red. 
With mighty maces the bones they to-brest. 
He through the thickest of the throng gan thrust, 
There stumble steedes strong, and down goth alL 
He rolleth under foot as doth a ball ! 
He foineth on his foe with a truncheon, 
And he him hurteth, with his horse adown ; 
He through the body is hurt and sith ytake, 
Maugre his head, and brought unto the stake." 

At last it happened to Palamon — 

" That by the force of twenty is he take 
Unyolden, and drawen to the stake. 
And when that Theseus had seen that sight. 
Unto the folk that foughten thus eche one 
He cried ' Ho ! no more, for it is done ! ' 
The troumpors with the loud minstralcie ; 

438 The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

The herauldes that so loude yell and crie, 
Been in their joy for wele of Don Arcite. 

* * • 

This fierce Arcite hath off his helm ydone, 
And on a courser, for to show his face, 
He pusheth endilong the large place, 
Looking upward upon this Emilie, 
And she towards him east a friendly eye ;" 

when, alas ! his horse started, fell, and crushed the exulting victor, so that 
he lay bruised to death in the listes which had seen his victory. After a 
decent time of mourning, by Theseus's good offices, Emily accepts her 
surviving lover : 

"And thus with alle blisse and melodie 
Hath Palamon y wedded Emelie." 

The two curious woodcuts * on pages 425 and 426 show the style of 
carriage associated — grotesquely associated, it seems to our eyes — with the 
armour and costume of the Middle Ages. No. 1 might represent Duke 
Theseus going in state through the streets of Athens, hung with tapestry 
and cloth of gold, to the solemn deed of arms of Palamon and Arcite. 
No. 2 may represent to us the merry Sir Dinadan driving to the tourna« 
ment of the Castle of Maidens. 

• From Mr. Wright's " Domestic Manners and Customs of the Middle Ages." 



HE archers of England were so famous during the Middle Ages 
that we feel special interest in knowing something about them. 
As early as the Conquest we find the Norman archers giving the 
invader a great advantage over the Saxons, who had not cultivated this 
arm with success. Their equipment and appearance may be seen in the 
Bayeux tapestry ; most of them are evidently unarmed, but some are in 
armour like that of the men-at-arms. Usually the quiver hangs at the 
side ; yet occasionally at the back, so that the arrows are drawn out over 
the shoulder; both fashions continued in later times. In one case, at 
least, an archer, in pursuit of the flying Saxons, is seen on horseback ; but 
it may be doubted whether at this period, as was the case subsequently, 
some of the archers were mounted, or whether an archer has leaped upon 
a riderless horse to pursue the routed enemy. The bow was of the simplest 
construction, not so long as it afterwards became ; the arrows were barbed 
and feathered. Each archer — in later times, at least — commonly carried 
two dozen arrows "under his belt" He also frequently bore a stake 
sharpened at both ends, so that in the field, when the front ranks fixed 
their stakes in the ground with their points sloping outward, and the 
rear rank fixed theirs in the intermediate spaces, they formed a cheval 
de /rise against cavalry, and, with the flanks properly cared for, they 
could hold their ground even against the steel-clad chivalry. Latterly 
also the archers were sometimes protected by a great movable shield; 
this they fixed upright by a rest, and behind it were sheltered from the 
adverse bowmen. The archer also carried a sword, so that he could 

44-0 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

defend himself, if attacked, hand to hand ; or act on the offensive 
with the main body of foot when his artillery was expended. By the 
twelfth century there are stories on record which show that the English 
bowmen had acquired such skill as to make their weapon a very formidable 
one. Richard of Devizes tells us that at the siege of Messina the Sicilians 
were obliged to leave their walls unmanned, " because no one could look 
abroad but he would have an arrow in his eye before he could shut it." 

In the thirteenth century the archer became more and more important. 
He always began the battle at a distance, as the artillery do in modern 
warfare, before the main bodies came up to actual hand-to-hand fighting. 
We find in this century a regular use of mounted corps of bowmen and 
cross-bowmen ; and the knights did not scorn to practise the use of this 
weapon, and occasionally to resort to it on a special occasion in the field. 
Some of the bowmen continue to be found, in the MS. illustrations, more 
or less fully armed, but the majority seem to have worn only a helmet of 
iron, and perhaps half armour of leather, or often nothing more than a 
woollen jerkin. 

The cross-bow, or arbalest, does not appear to have been used in war 
until the close of the twelfth century. It was not equal to the long-bow in 
strong and skilful hands, because a powerful and skilful bowman, while he 
could probably send his shaft with as much force as a cross-bow, could 
shoot half-a-dozen arrows while the cross-bow was being wound up to dis- 
charge a second bolt ; but still, once introduced, the mechanical advantage 
which the cross-bow gave to men of ordinary strength and of inferior skill 
caused it to keep its ground, until the invention of fire-arms gradually 
superseded both long-bow and arbalest. The bow of the cross-bow seems 
to have been usually of steel ; some of them were strung by putting the 
foot into a loop at the end of the stock, and pulling the cord up to its 
notch by main force: an illustration of this early form appears in the 
arbalester shooting from the battlement of the castle in the early four- 
teenth-century illumination on p. 381, and another at p. 382 ; but the more 
powerful bows required some mechanical assistance to bring the string 
to its place. In a picture in the National Gallery of the Martyrdom of 
St. Sebastian, by Antonio Pollajuolo, of Florence, a.d. 1475, an arbalester 

Tht Cross-bow, 44 1 

has a cord attached to his belt, and a pulley running on it, with a hook 
to catch the bow-string, so that, putting his foot into the loop at the 
end of the stock, looping the end of the cord on to a hook at its 
butt, and catching the bow-string by the pulley, he could, by straight- 
ening himself, apply the whole force of his body to the stringing of 
his weapon. More frequently, however, a little winch was used, by which 
the string was wound into its place with little expenditure of strength. 
One of the men in the cut on the next page is thus stringing his bow, and it 
is seen again in the cut on p. 449. The arrow shot by the cross-bow was 
called a bolt or quarrel ; it was shorter and stouter than an ordinary arrow, 
with a heavier head. The arbalester seems to have carried fifty bolts into 
the field with him; the store of bolts was carried by waggons which 
followed the army. 

We have already said that there were, from the thirteenth century, bodies 
of mounted arbalesters. But the far larger proportion of archers, of both 
arms, were footmen, who were usually placed in front of the array to com- 
mence the engagement 

The arbalest, however, was more used on the Continent than in England ; 
and hence the long-bow came to be especially considered the national arm 
of the English, while the Genoese became famous as arbalesters. The 
superior rapidity of fire gave the English archer the same advantage over 
his foemen that the needle-gun gave to the Prussians in the late war. 

Later on, in the fourteenth century, the battle seems to have been usually 
begun by the great machines for throwing stones and darts which then 
played the part of modern cannon, while the bowmen were placed on the 
flanks. Frequently, also, archers were intermixed with the horsemen, so 
that a body of spearmen with archers among them would play the part 
which a body of dragoons did in more modern warfare, throwing the 
opposing ranks into confusion with missiles, before charging upon them 
hand to hand. 

In the fourteenth century the bow had attained the climax of its reputa- 
tion as a weapon, and in the French wars many a battle was decided by 
the strength and skill and sturdy courage of the English bowmen. 
Edward III. conferred honour on the craft by raising a corps of archers 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

of the King's Guard, consisting of 120 men, the most expert who could 
be found in the kingdom. About the same period the French kings 
enrolled from their allies of Scotland the corps of Scottish Archers of the 
Guard, who were afterwards so famous. 

We have already given a good illustration of the long-bowman from the 
Royal MS. 14, E. IV., a folio volume illustrated with very fine pictures 
executed for our King Edward IV. From the same MS. we now take an 
illustration of the cross-bow. The accompanying cut is part of a larger 
picture which represents several interesting points in a siege. On the right 
is a town surrounded by a moat ; the approach to the bridge over the moat 

Bowmen and Arbalesters. 

is defended by an outwork, and the arbalesters in the cut are skirmishing 
with some bowmen on the battlements and angle-turrets of this out- 
work. On the left of the picture are the besiegers. They have erected a 
wooden castle with towers, surrounded by a timber breast-work. In front of 
this breast-work is an elaborate cannon of the type of that represented in 
the cut on page 392. At a little distance is a battery of one cannon 
elevated on a wooden platform, and screened by a breast-work of basket- 
work, which was a very usual way of concealing cannon down to the 
time of Henry VIII. 
The man on the right of the cut wears a visored helmet, but it has no 

The Cross-bow. 


amail ; his body is pro tected by a skirt of mail, which appears at the 
shoulders and hips, and at the openings of his blue surcoat ; the legs are 
in brown hose, and the feet in brown shoes. The centre figure has a 
helmet and camail, sleeves of mail, and iron breastplate of overlapping 
plates ; the upper plate and the skirt are of red spotted with gold ; his hose 
and shoes are of dark grey. The third man has a helmet with camail, and 
the body protected by mail, which shows under the arm, but he has also 


shoulder-pieces and elbow-pieces of plate ; his surcoat is yellow, and his 
hose red. The artist has here admirably illustrated the use of the cross- 
bow. In one case we see the archer stringing it by help of a little winch ; 
in the next he is taking a bolt out of the quiver at his side with which to 
load his weapon ; in the third we have the attitude in which it was dis- 

The illustration above, from a fourteenth-century MS. (Cott Julius, E. IV. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

f. 2 1 9), represents a siege. A walled town is on the right, and in front of 
the wall, acting on the part of the town, are the cross-bowmen in the cut, 
protected by great shields which are kept upright by a rest. The men 

seem to be preparing to fire, and 
the uniformity of their attitude, 
compared with the studied variety 
of attitude of groups of bowmen 
in other illustrations, suggests that 
they are preparing to fire a volley. 
On the left of the picture is 
sketched a group of tents repre- 
senting the camp of the besiegers, 
and in front of the camp is a 
palisade which screens a cannon 
of considerable length. The 
whole picture is only sketched in 
with pen and ink. 

The woodcut here given (Royal 
1 4, E. IV. f. xiv.) forms part of a 
large and very interesting picture. 
In the middle of the picture is 
a castle with a bridge, protected 
by an advanced tower, and a 
postern with a drawbridge drawn 
up. Archers, cross-bowmen, and 
men-at-arms man the battlements. 
In front is a group of men-at-arms 
and tents, with archers and cross- 
bowmen shooting up at the de- 
fenders. On the right is a group 
of men-at-arms who seem to be 
meditating an attack by surprise 
upon the postern. On the left, opposed to the principal gate, is the 
timber fort shown in the woodcut. Its construction, of great posts and 

Timber Fort. 

The Long-bow. 445 

thick slabs of timber strengthened with stays and cross-beams, is well 
indicated. There seem to be two separate works : one is a battery of 
two cannon, the cannon having wheeled carriages ; the other is manned 
by archers. It is curious to see the mixture of arms— long-bow, cross-bow, 
portable fire-arm, and wheeled cannon, all used at the same time ; indeed, 
it may be questioned whether the earlier fire-arms were very much superior 
in effect to the more ancient weapons which they supplanted. No doubt 
many an archer preferred the long-bow, with which he could shoot with 
truer aim than with a clumsy hand-gun ; and perhaps a good catapult was 
only inferior to one of the early cannon in being a larger and heavier engine. 

At fol. 1 v. of the same MS., a wooden tower and lofty breast-work 
have been thrown up in front of a town by the defenders as an additional 
protection to the usual stone tower which defends the approach to the 
bridge. The assailants are making an assault on this breast-work, and 
need ladders to scale it ; so that it is evident the defenders stand on a 
raised platform behind their timber defence. See a similar work at f. xlviij., 
which is mounted with cannon. 

The practice of archery by the commonalty of England was protected 
and encouraged by a long series of legislation. As early as Henry I. we 
find an enactment — which indicates that such accidents happened then as 
do unhappily in these days, when rifle-shooting is become a national 
practice — that if any one practising with arrows or with darts should by 
accident slay another, it was not to be punished as a crime. In the four- 
teenth century, when the archer had reached the height of his importance 
in the warfare of the time, many enactments were passed on the subject. 
Some were intended to encourage, and more than encourage, the practice 
by the commonalty of what had become the national arm. In 1363, and 
again in 1388, statutes were passed calling upon the people to leave their 
popular amusements of ball and coits and casting the stone and the like, 
on their festivals and Sundays, and to practise archery instead. " Servants 
and labourers shall have bows and arrows, and use the same the Sundays 
and holidays, and leave all playing at tennis or foot-ball, and other games 
called coits, dice, casting the stone, kailes, and other such inopportune 

44^ The Knights, of the Middle Ages, 

In 1482 a statute says that the clearness of bows has driven the people 
to leave shooting, and practise unlawful games, though the king's subjects 
are perfectly disposed to shoot ; and it therefore regulates the price of bows. 
This crude legislation, of course, failed to remedy the evil, for if the 
bowyers could not sell them at a profit, they would cease to make them, 
or rather to import the wood of which they were made, since the best ye .v for 
bows came from abroad, English yew not supplying pieces sufficiently long 
without knots. Accordingly, in 1483, another statute required all merchants 
sending merchandise to England from any place from which bow-staves 
were usually exported, to send four bow-staves for every ton of merchandise, 
and two persons were appointed at each port to inspect the staves so 
sent, and mark and reject those which were not good and sufficient. 

Still later the erection of butts was encouraged in every parish to prevent 
the accidents which the statute of Henry I. had directed justice to wink 
at ; and traces of them still remain in the names of places, as in Newington 
Butts; and still more frequently in the names of fields, as the "butt-field." 

Our history of ancient artillery would be imperfect without a few words 
on the modern artillery of metal balls propelled from hollow tubes by the 
explosive force of gunpowder, which superseded the slings and bows 
and darts, the catapults and trebuchets and mangonels and battering- 
rams, which had been used from the beginning of warfare in the world, 
and also drove out of use the armour, whether of leather, bone, or steel, 
which failed to pay in security of person against shot and cannon-ball for 
its weight and encumbrance to the wearer. A good deal of curious 
inquiry has been bestowed upon the origin of this great agent in the revo- 
lution of modern warfare. The Chinese and Arabs are generally regarded 
as the first inventors of gunpowder ; among Europeans its invention has 
been attributed to Marcus Graecus, Albertus Magnus, Barthold Schwaletz, 
and Roger Bacon. 

The first written evidence relating to the existence of cannon is in the 
ordinances of Florence, in the year 1326, wherein authority is given to 
the Priors Gonfalionieri and twelve good men to appoint persons to 
superintend the manufacture of cannons and iron balls for the defence of 
the Commune Camp and territory of the Republic J. Barbour, the poet, 

Cannon. 447 

is usually quoted as an authority for the use of cannon " crakeys of war," 
by Edward III., in his Scottish campaign, in the year 1327. But since 
Barbour was not born till about that year, and did not write till 1375, his 
authority was not contemporary and may be doubted, especially since 
there is strong negative evidence to the contrary : e. g. that all the army 
accounts of this campaign still remain, and no mention of guns or gun- 
powder is to be found in them. In 1338, however, there is unquestionable 
evidence that cannon of both iron and brass were employed on board 
English ships of war. In an inventory of things delivered that year by 
John Starling, formerly clerk of the king's vessels, to Helmyng, keeper of 
the same, are noted " un canon de fer ov ii chambers, un autre de bras ove 
une chamber, iii canons de fer of v chambres, un handgonne," &c. In 
explanation of the two and five chambers, it appears that these earliest 
cannon were breechloaders, and each cannon had several movable 
chambers to contain the charges. The same year, 1338, gives the first 
French document relating to cannon. It is doubly interesting; first 
because it relates to the provision made for an expedition against South- 
ampton in that year, and secondly because it was a curious attempt to 
combine the cannon and the arbalest, in other words, to make use of the 
force of gunpowder for propelling the old short quarrel. It was an iron 
fire-arm provided with forty-eight bolts (carreaux) made of iron and 
feathered with brass. We learn that a tube received the arrow, which was 
wrapped round with leather at the butt to make it fit closely, and this tube 
fitted to a box, or chamber, which contained the charge and was kept in 
its place by a wedge.* In 1339 it is recorded that the English used 
cannon at the siege of Cambray. In 1346 experiments on improved 
cannon were made by Peter of Bruges, a famous maker, before the consuls 
of Tournay. At the siege of Calais, in 1347, the English built a castle 
of wood, and armed it with bombards. In the household expenses of 
Edward III., commencing 1344, are payments to " engyners lvii., artillers 
vi, gunners vi," who each received sixpence a day. 

The date of the first appearance of cannon in the field is still disputed ; 

* " Ancient Cannon in Europe," by Lieut Brackenbury. 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

some say they were used at Crecy in the year 1346. Certainly, in 1382, 
the men of Ghent carried guns into the field against the Brugeois ; and at 
the combat of Pont-de-Comines, in the same year, we read bombardes 
portatives were used. 

We have already given several illustrations of cannon. Siege cannon 
for throwing heavy balls which did not need very great accuracy of aim, 

Long-bow, Arquebus, Cannon, and Greek Fire. 

soon superseded entirely the more cumbrous military engines which were 
formerly used for the same purpose. But hand-guns were not at first so 
greatly superior to bows, and did not so rapidly come into exclusive 
use. And yet a good deal of inventive ingenuity was bestowed upon their 
improvement and development. The "Brown Bess" of our great con- 
tinental war was a clumsy weapon after all, and it may fairly be doubted 
whether a regiment armed with it could have stood against a row of Robin 

Greek Fire. 449 

Hood's men with their long-bows. It was really left to our day to 
produce a portable fire-arm which would fire as rapidly, as far, and with 
as accurate an aim as Robin Hood's men could shoot their cloth-yard 
shafts six hundred years ago ; and yet it is curious to find some of the 
most ingenious inventions of the present day anticipated long since : there 
are still preserved in the Tower armoury breech-loaders and revolving 
chambers and conical shot of the time of Henry VIII. 

The woodcut on the preceding page, which is from the MS. Royal 14, 
E. IV., contains several figures taken from one of the large illuminations 
that adorn the MS. ; it affords another curious illustration of the simul- 
taneous use of various forms of projectiles. On the right side is an archei, 
with his sheaf at his belt and his sword by his 
side. On the left is a man-at-arms in a very pic- 
turesque suit of complete armour, firing a hand-gun 
of much more modern form than those in the 
former woodcut. A small wheeled cannon on the 
ground shows the contemporary form of that arm, 
while the pikes beside it help to illustrate the great 
variety of weapons in use. The cross-bowman 
here introduced is from the same illumination ; he is 

winding up his weapon with a winch, like the cross- 

bowman on p. 442 ; his shield is slung at his back. 

But we have specially to call attention to the two men who are throwing 

shells, which ire probably charged with Greek fire. This invention, 

which inspired such terror in the Middle Ages, seems to have been 

discovered in the east of Europe, and to have been employed as early as the 

seventh century. We hear much of its use in the Crusades, by the Greeks, 

who early possessed the secret of its fabrication. They used it either by 

ejecting it through pipes to set fire to the shipping or military engines, or 

to annoy and kill the soldiers of the enemy ; or they cast it to a distance 

by means of vessels charged with it affixed to javelins ; or they hurled 

larger vessels by means of the great engines for casting stones ; or they 

threw the fire by hand in a hand-to-hand conflict ; or used hollow maces 

charged with it, which were broken over the person of the enemy, and 

2 o 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

the liquid fire poured down, finding its way through the crevices of his 
armour. It was, no doubt, a terrible sight to see a man-at-arms or a ship 
wrapped in an instant in liquid flames ; and what added to the terror it 
inspired was that the flames could not be extinguished by water or any 
other available appliance. On the introduction of the use of gunpowder 
in European warfare, Greek fire seems also to have been experimented 


upon, and we find several representations of its use in the MS. drawings, 
where it is chiefly thrown by hand to set fire to shipping ; in the present 
example, however, it is used in the field. 

Lastly, in the above cut we give a representation of the battering-ram 
from an interesting work which illustrates all the usual military engines.* 
It contains curious contrivances for throwing up scaling-ladders and affixing 

* See also Viollet le Due's "Dictionary of Architecture. 

Military Engines, 451 

them to the battlements, from which the inventorsof our fire-escapes may 
have borrowed suggestions ; and others for bridging wide moats and rivers 
with light scaffolding, which could be handled and fixed as easily and 
quickly as the scaling-ladders. The drawing of the ram only indicates that 
the machine consists of a heavy square beam of timber, provided, probably, 
with a metal head, which is suspended by a rope from a tall frame, and 
worked by manual strength. The cut is especially interesting as an 
illustration of the style of armour of the latter rAart of the fifteenth century. 
It gives the back as well as the front of the figure, and also several 
varieties ot helmet 



j|S the fifteenth century advanced the wars of the Roses gave 
urgent reason for attention to the subject of defensive armour ; 
and we find, accordingly, that the fashions of armour underwent 
many modifications, in the attempt to give the wearer more perfect pro- 
tection for life and limb. It would be tedious to enter into the minute 
details of these changes, and the exact date of their introduction; we 
must limit ourselves to a brief history of the general character of the new 
fashions. The horizontal bands of armour called faces, depending from 
the corslet, became gradually narrower; while the pieces which hung 
down in front of the thighs, called tuilles, became proportionately larger. 
In the reigns of Richard III. and Henry VII. the knightly equipment 
reached its strangest forms. Besides the usual close-fitting pieces which 
protected the arms, the elbow-piece was enlarged into an enormous fan- 
like shape that not only protected the elbow itself, but overlapped the 
fore arm, and by its peculiar shape protected the upper arm up to the 
shoulder. The shoulder-pieces also were strengthened, sometimes by 
several super-imposed overlapping plates, sometimes by hammering it out 
into ridges, sometimes by the addition of a passe garde — a kind of high 
collar which protected the neck from a sweeping side blow. The breast- 
plate is globular in shape, and often narrow at the waist ; from it depend 
narrow faces and tuilles, and under the tuilles we often find a deep skirt of 
mail. When broad-toed shoes came into fashion, the iron shoes of the 
knight followed the fashion ; and at the same time, in place of the old 
gauntlet in which the fingers were divided, and each finger protected by 

Fifteenth Century Armour. 453 

several small plates of metal, the leather glove was now furnished at the 
back of the hand with three or four broad over-lapping plates, like those 
sf a lobster, each of which stretched across the whole hand. These 
alterations may have added to the strength of the armour, but it was at 
the cost of elegance of appearance. A suit of armour embossed with 
ornamental patterns, partially covered with a blue mande, may be seen in 
the fifteenth-century Book of Hours, Harl. 5,328, f. 77. 

In the time of Henry VIII., in place of the faces and iuilles for the 
defence of the body and thighs, a kind of skirt of steel, called lamboys, 
was introduced, which was fluted and ribbed vertically, so as to give it 
very much the appearance of a short petticoat. Henry VIII. is represented 
in this costume in the equestrian figure on his great seal. And a suit 
of armour of this kind, a very magnificent one, which was presented to 
the king by the Emperor Maximilian on the occasion of his marriage to 
Katharine of Arragon, is preserved in the Tower armoury. A good 
sketch of a suit of this kind will be seen in one of the pikemen — the fifth 
from the right hand — in the nearest rank of the army in the engraving of 
King Henry VIII.'s army, which faces page 455. The armour of this 
reign was sometimes fashioned in exact imitation of the shape of the 
ordinary garments of a gentleman of the time, and engraved and inlaid in 
imitation of their woven or embroidered ornamentation. 

In the tournament armour of the time the defences were most complete, 
but unwieldy and inelegant. The front of the saddle had a large piece of 
armour attached, which came up to protect the trunk, and was bent round 
to encase each thigh. A clearly drawn representation of this will be found 
in a tilting scene in the illumination on f. 15 v. of the MS. Add. 24,189, 
date circa 1400 a.d. There are several examples of it in the Tower 
armoury. The shield was also elaborately shaped and curved, to form 
an outer armour for the defence of the whole of the left side. Instead 
of the shield there was sometimes an additional piece of armour, called 
the grand garde, screwed to the breastplate, to protect the left side and 
shoulder; while the great spear had also a piece of armour affixed in 
front of the grasp, which not only protected the hand, but was made large 
enough to make a kind of shield for the right arm and breast There was 


The Knights of the Middle Ages, 

also sometimes a secondary defence affixed to the upper part of the breast- 
plate, which stood out in front of the face. These defences for thigh and 
breast will be observed in the woodcut of the " playing at tournament," on 
p. 408; and in the combat of the Earl of Warwick, p. 418, will be seen 
how the grande garde is combined with the volante piece which came in 
front of the face. Behind such defences the tilter must have been almost 
invulnerable. On the other hand, his defences were so unwieldy that 
he must have got into his saddle first, and then have been packed securely 

Combat on Foot. 

into his armour ; and when there, he could do nothing but sit still and 
hold his spear in rest — it seems impossible for him even to have struck a 
single sword stroke. James I.'s remark on armour was especially true of 
such a suit : " It was an admirable invention which preserved a man from 
being injured, and made him incapable of injuring any one else." 

There are several very good authorities for the military costume of the 
reign of Henry VIII. easily accessible to the student and artist. The 

A Medieval Army. 455 

roll preserved in the College of Arms which represents the tournament 
held at Westminster, a.d. 15 10, in honour of the birth of the son of Henry 
and Katharine of Arragon, has been engraved in the " Vetusta Monu- 
mental' The painting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold at Hampton 
Court is another contemporary authority full of costumes of all kinds. 
The engravings of Hans Burgmaier, in the Triumphs of Maximilian and 
the Weise Konige contain numerous authorities very valuable for the 
clearness and artistic skill with which the armour is depicted. We have 
given an illustration, on the preceding page, reduced from one of the 
plates of the latter work, which represents a combat of two knights, on 
foot. The armour is partly covered by a surcoat ; in the left-hand figure 
it will be seen that it is fluted. The shields will be noticed as illustrating 
one of the shapes then in use. 

But our best illustration is from a contemporary drawing in the British 
Museum (Aug. IIL, f. 4), which represents Henry VIIL's army, and gives 
us, on a small scale, and in very sketchy but intelligible style, a curious 
and valuable picture of the military equipment of the period. We have 
two armies drawn up in battle array, and the assault is just commenced. 
The nearer army has its main body of pikemen, who, we know from 
contemporary writers, formed the main strength of an army at this time, 
and for long after. In front of them are two lines of arquebusiers. Their 
front is protected by artillery, screened by great mantelets of timber. The 
opposing army has similarly its main body of pikemen, and its two lines 
of arquebusiers ; the first line engaged in an assault upon the enemy's 
artillery. On the left flank of its main body is the cavalry ; and there 
seems to be a reserve of pikemen a little distance in the rear, behind a 
rising ground. Tents pitched about a village represent the head-quarters 

the army, and baggage waggons on the left of the picture show that the 

tist has overlooked nothing. A fortress in the distance seems to be 
taking part in the engagement with its guns. 

There are other similar pictures in the same volume, some of which 
supply details not here given, or not so clearly expressed. At folio 1 are 
two armies, each with a van of musketeers three deep, a main body of 
pikemen eleven deep, and a third line of musketeers three deep. The 

456 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

cavalry are more distinctly shown than in the picture before us, as being 
men-at-arms in full armour, with lances. At folio 3 the drummers, fifers, 
and baggage and camp followers are shown. 

In the Weise Konige,* on plate 44, is a representation of a camp sur- 
rounded by the baggage waggons; on plates 91 and 96 a square fort of 
timber in the field of battle ; on plates 57, 84, &c, are cannons surrounded 
by mantelets, some of wicker probably filled with earth ; on plate 60 is a 
good representation of a column of troops defiling out of the gate of a city. 

The following account, from Grafton's Chronicle, of the array in which 
Henry VIII. took the field when he marched to the siege of Boulogne, will 
illustrate the picture : — 

"The xxj. day of July (15 13), when all thinges by counsayle had bene 
ordered concernyng the order of battaile, the king passed out of the town 
of Calice in goodly array of battaile, and toke the field. And notwith- 
standyng that the forewarde and the rerewarde of the kinges great armye 
were before Tyrwin, as you have heard, yet the king of his own battaile 
made three battailes after the fassion of the warre. The Lord Lisle, 
marshall of the hoste, was captain of the foreward, and under him three 
thousand men ; Sir Rychard Carew, with three hundred men, was the 
right-hand wing to the foreward ; and the Lord Darcy, with three hun- 
dred men, was wing on the left hande ; the scowrers and fore-ryders of 
this battaile were the Northumberland men on light geldings. The Erie 
of Essex was lieutenaunt-generall of the speres, and Sir John Pechy was 
vice-governour of the horsemen. Before the king went viij. hundred 
Almaynes, all in a plump by themselves. After them came the standard 
with the red dragon, next the banner of our ladie, and next after the 
banner of the Trinitie : under the same were all the kinges housholde 
servauntes. Then went the banner of the armes of Englande, borne by 
Sir Henry Guilforde, under which banner was the king himselfe, with 
divers noblemen and others, to the number of three thousand men. The 
Duke of Buckyngham, with sixe hundred men, was on the kinges left 

* The British Museum does not possess this fine work* but a copy of it is accessible to 
the public in the Library of the South Kensington Museum. 

A Mediaeval Army. 


hande, egall with the Almaynes ; in like wise on the right hande was Sir 
Edward Poumynges, with other sixe hundred men egall with the Almaynes. 
The Lord of Burgoynie, with viij. hundred men, was wing on the right 
hande; Sir William Compton, with the retinue of the Bishop of Win- 
chester, and Master Wolsey, the king's almoner,* to the number of viij. 


hundred, was in manner of a rereward. Sir Anthony Oughtred and Sir 
John Nevell, with the kinges speres that followed, were foure hundred ; 
and so the whole armie were xj. thousand and iij. hundred men. The 
Mayster of the Ordinaunce set forth the kinges artillerie, as fawcons, 

• Afterwards cardinal. 

458 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

slinges, bombardes, cartes with powder, stones, bowes, arrowes, and suche 
other thinges necessary for the fielde ; the whole number of the carriages 
were xiij. hundreth ; the leaders and dryvers of the same were xix hun- 
dreth men ; and all these were rekened in the battaile, but of good fight- 
yng men there were not full ix. thousande. Thus in order of battayle the 
king rode to Sentreyla." 

A little after we have a description of the king's camp, which will 
illustrate the other pictures above noted. 

" Thursedaie, the fourth daye of Auguste, the king, in good order of 
battaile, came before the city of Tyrwyn, and planted his siege in most 
warlike wise ; his camp was environed with artillerie, as fawcons, serpen- 
tines, crakys, hagbushes, and tryed harowes, spien trestyles, and other 
warlike defence for the savegard of the campe. The king for himselfe had 
a house of timber, with a chimney of iron ; and for his other lodgings he 
had great and goodlye tents of blewe waterworke, garnished with yellow 
and white, and divers romes within the same for all officers necessarie. 
On the top of the pavalions stoode the kinges bestes, holding fanes, as the 
lion, the dragon, the greyhound, the antelope, the Done Kowe.* Within, 
all the lodginge was paynted full of the sunnes rising : the lodginge was a 
hundred xxv. foote in length." 

At folio 5 of the MS. already referred to (Aug. III.) is a connected ar- 
rangement of numerous tents, as if to form some such royal quarters. But 
at folio 8 are two gorgeous suites of tents, which can hardly have been 
constructed for any other than a very great personage. One suite is of red, 
watered, with gold ornamentation ; the other is of green and white stripes 
(or rather gores), with a gilded cresting along the ridge, and red and blue 
fringe at the eaves. 

Our next engravings are from coloured drawings at f. 9, in the same MS., 
and respectively represent very clearly the half-armour worn by the pikeman 
and the arquebusier, and the weapons from which they took their name. 

In the reign of Elizabeth and James I. armour was probably very little 
worn ; but every country knight and esquire possessed a suit of armour, 

• Dun Cow. 

Sixteenth Century Armour. 


which usually hung in his hall over his chair of state, surrounded by 
corslets and iron hats, pikes and halberts, cross-bows and long-bows, 
wherewith to arm his serving-men and tenants, if civil troubles or foreign 
invasion should call the fighting-men of the country into the field.* The 


knights and esquires of these times are also commonly represented in 
armour, kneeling at the prayer-desk, in their monumental effigies. The 

• " He is so hung round," says Truewit, in Ben Jonson's Epiccene, " with pikes, 
halberds, petronels, calivers, and muskets, that he looks like a justice of peace's hall." 
Clement Sysley, of Eastbury House, near Barking, bequeathed in his will the " gonnes, 
pikes, cross-bows, and other weapons, to Thomas Sysley, to go with the house, and 
remain as standards for ever in Eastburv Hall." 

460 The Knights of the Middle Ages. 

fashion of the armour differs from that of preceding reigns. The elabo- 
rate ingenuities of the latter part of the fifteenth century have been dis- 
pensed with, and the extravagant caprices also by which the armour of 
Henry VIII.'s time imitated in steel the fashion of the ordinary costume 
of the day are equally abandoned. The armour is simply made to fit the 
breast, body, arms, and legs ; the thighs being protected by a modifica- 
tion of the tuilles in the form of a succession of overlapping plates {tassets 
or cuisses) which reach from the corslet to the knee. 

The civil war of the Great Rebellion offers a tempting theme, but we 
must limit ourselves to the notice that few, except great noblemen when 
acting as military leaders, ever wore anything like a complete suit of 
armour. A beautiful suit, inlaid with gold, which belonged to Charles I., 
is in the Tower armoury. But knights are still sometimes represented in 
armour in their monumental effigies. A breast and back-plate over a 
leather coat, and a round iron cap, were commonly worn both by cavalry 
and infantry. 

In the time of Charles II. and James II., and William and Mary, 
officers still wore breastplates, and military leaders were sometimes painted 
in full armour, though it may be doubted whether they ever actually wore 
it. As late as the present century, officers, in some regiments at least, 
wore a little steel gorget, rather as a distinction than a defence. But 
even yet our horse-guards remain with their breast and back-plates and 
helmets, and their thick leather boots, to show us how bright steel and 
scarlet, waving plumes and embroidered banners, trained chargers and 
gay trappings. gJM outward bravery and chivalric grace to the holiday 
aspect of the sanguinary trade of war. 




N the remotest antiquity, before European civilisation dawned in 
Greece, Britain was already of some commercial importance. 
In those days, before the art of tempering iron was discovered, 
copper occupied the place which iron now fills. But an alloy of tin was 
requisite to give to copper the hardness and edge needed to fit it for useful 
tools for the artisan, for arrow and spear heads for the hunter, and for the 
warrior's sword and shield ; and there were only two places known in the 
world where this valuable metal could be obtained — Spain and Britain. 
For ages the Phoenician merchants and their Carthaginian colonists had a 
monopoly of this commerce, as they only had the secret of the whereabouts 
of the "Isles of Tin." It is very difficult for us to realise to ourselves how 
heroic was the daring of those early adventurers. We, who have explored 
the whole earth, and by steam and telegraph brought every corner of it 
within such easy reach ; we, to whom it is a very small matter to make a 
voyage with women and children to the other side of the world ; we, who 
walk down to the pier to see the ships return from the under world, keep- 
ing their time as regularly as the Minster clock — we cannot comprehend 
what it was to them, to whom the tideless sunny Mediterranean was " The 
Great Sea," about which they groped cautiously from one rocky headland to 

462 The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

another in fine weather, and laid up in harbour for the winter ; to whom 
the Pillars of Hercules were the western boundary of the world, beyond 
which the weird ocean with its great tides and mountain-waves stretched 
without limit towards the sunset ; we cannot comprehend the heroic daring 
of the men who, in those little ships, without compass, came from the 
easternmost shores of the Great Sea, ventured through its western portal 
into this outer waste, and steered boldly northwards towards the unknown 
regions of ice and darkness. 

Our readers will remember that Strabo tells us how, when Rome became 
the rival of Carthage, the Romans tried to discover the route to these 
mysterious islands. He relates how the master of a Carthaginian vessel, 
finding himself pursued by one whom the Romans had appointed to watch 
him, purposely ran his vessel aground, and thus sacrificing ship and cargo 
to the preservation of the national secret, was repaid on his return out of 
the public treasury. 

The trade, which included lead and hides as well as tin, when it left the 
hands of the Phoenicians, did not, however, fall into those of the Romans, 
but took quite a different channel. The Greek colony of Marseilles became 
then the emporium from which the world was supplied ; but the scanty 
accounts we have received imply that it was not conveyed there direct on 
ship-board, but that the native ships and traders of the Gallic towns on the 
coasts of the Continent conveyed the British commerce across the Channel, 
and thence transported it overland to Marseilles. 

The Britons, however, had ships, and it is interesting to know of 
what kind were the prototypes of the vast and magnificent vessels which 
in later days have composed the mercantile navy of Great Britain. They 
were a kind of large basket of wickerwork, in shape like a walnut shell, 
strengthened by ribs of wood, covered on the outside with hides.* Such 
constructions seem very frail, but they were capable of undertaking consi- 
derable voyages. Pliny quotes the old Greek historian Timseus as affirming 
that the Britons used to make their way to an island at the distance of six 

* A sketch illustrating their construction may be found in Witsen's " Sbeeps Bouw." 
Appendix, Plate 10. 

Ancient British Commerce. 463 

days' sail in boats made of osiers and covered with skins. Solinus states 
that in his time the communication between Britain and Ireland was kept 
up on both sides by means of these vessels. Two passages in Adamson, 
quoted by Macpherson,* tell us that the people sailed in them from Ireland 
as far as Orkney, and on one occasion we hear of one of these frail vessels 
advancing as far into the Northern Ocean as fourteen days with full sail 
before a south wind. The common use of such vessels, and the fact of this 
intercommunication between England and Ireland and the islands farther 
north, seem to imply, at least, some coasting and inter-insular traffic : ships 
are the instruments either of war or commerce. 

The invasion of Julius Caesar opened up the island to the knowledge of 
the civilised world, and there are indications that in the interval of a 
hundred years between his brief campaign and the actual conquest under 
Claudius, a commerce sprang up between the south and south-east of 
Britain and the opposite coasts of the Continent. In this interval the 
first British coinage was struck, and London became the chief emporium of 
Britain. When the island became a province of the Roman empire, active 
commercial intercourse was carried on between it and the rest of the 
empire. Its chief production was corn, of which large quantities were 
exported, so that Britain was to the northern part of the empire what 
Sicily was to the southern. Besides, the island exported cattle, hides, and 
slaves ; British hunting dogs were famous, and British oysters and pearls. 
The imports would include all the articles of convenience and luxury used 
by the civilised inhabitants. We do not know with certainty whether this 
foreign commerce was carried on by British vessels or not. History has 
only preserved the record of the military navy. But when we know that 
the British fleet, which had been raised to control the piratical enterprises 
of the Saxons and Northmen, was so powerful that its admiral, Carausius, 
was able to seize upon a share of the empire, and that his successor in 
command, Allectus, was able, though for a shorter period, to repeat the 
exploit, we may conclude that the natives of the island must have acquired 
considerable knowledge and experience of maritime affairs, and were very 

• " History of Commerce." 

464 The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

likely to turn their acquirements in the direction of commerce. Many of 
the representations of Roman ships, to be found in works on Roman 
antiquities, would illustrate this part of the subject; we may content our- 
selves with referring the reader to a representation, in Witsen's " Sheeps 
Bouw," of a Roman ship being laden with merchandise : a half-naked 
porter is just putting on board a sack, probably of corn, which is being 
received by a man in Roman armour ; it brings the salient features of the 
trade at once before our eyes. 

The Saxon invasion overwhelmed the civilisation which was then widely 
spread over Britain ; and of the history of the country for a long time after 
that great event we are profoundly ignorant. 

It appears that the Saxons after their settlement in England completely 
neglected the sea, and it was not until the reign of Alfred, towards the end 
of the ninth century, that they again began to build ships, and not until 
some years later that foreign commerce was carried on in English vessels. 
In these later Saxon times, however, considerable intercourse took place 
with the Continent. There was a rage among Saxon men, and women 
too, for foreign pilgrimages; and thousands of persons were continually 
going and coming between England and the most famous shrines of 
Europe, especially those of Rome, the capital city of Western Christendom. 
Among these travellers were some whose object was traffic, probably in the 
portable articles of jewellery for which the Saxon goldsmiths were famous 
throughout Europe. It seems probable that some of these merchants 
were accustomed to adopt the pilgrims' character and habit in order to 
avail themselves of the immunities and hospitalities accorded to them ; 
and, perhaps, on the other hand, some of those whose first object was 
religion, carried a few articles for sale to eke out their expenses. This, 
probably, is the explanation of the earliest extant document bearing on 
Saxon commerce, which is a letter from the Emperor Charlemagne to Offa, 
King of the Mercians, in which he says : " Concerning the strangers, who, 
for the love of God and the salvation of their souls, wish to repair to the 
thresholds of the blessed Apostles, let them travel in peace without any 
trouble ; nevertheless, if any are found among them not in the service of 
religion, but in the pursuit of gain, let them pay the established duties at 

Saxon Merchants. 465 

the proper places. We also will that merchants shall have lawful protec- 
tion in our kingdom ; and if they are in any place unjustly aggrieved, let 
them apply to us or our judges, and we shall take 6are that ample justice 
be done them." The latter clause seems clearly to imply that English 
merchants in their acknowledged character were also to be found in the 
dominions of the great Emperor. 

The next notice we find of Saxon foreign commerce is equally pic- 
turesque, and far more important. It is a law passed in the reign of King 
Athelstan, between 925 and 950, which enacts that every merchant who 
shall have made three voyages over the sea in a ship and cargo of his own 
should have the rank of a thane, or nobleman. It will throw light upon 
this law, if we mention that it stands side by side with another which gives 
equally generous recognition to success in agricultural pursuits : every one 
who had so prospered that he possessed five hides of land, a hall, and a 
church, was also to rank as a thane. 

The law indicates the usual way in which foreign commerce was carried 
on by native merchants. The merchant owned his own ship, and laded it 
with his own cargo, and was his own captain, though he might, perhaps, 
employ some skilful mariner as his ship-master ; and, no doubt, his crew 
was well armed for protection from pirates. In these days a ship is often 
chartered to carry a cargo to a particular port, and there the captain 
obtains another cargo, such as the market affords him, to some other port, 
and so he may wander over the world in the most unforeseen manner before 
he finds a profitable opportunity of returning to his starting-place. So, 
probably, in those times the spirited merchant would not merely oscillate 
between home and a given foreign point, but would carry on a traffic of 
an adventurous and hazardous but exciting kind, from one of the great 
European ports to another. 

From a volume of Saxon dialogues in the British Museum (Tiberius, 
A. III.), apparently intended for a school-book, which gives information of 
various kinds in the form of question and answer, Mr. S. Turner quotes a 
passage that illustrates our subject in a very interesting way. The mer- 
chant is introduced as one of the characters, to give an account of his 
occupation and way of life. " I am useful," he says, " to the king and to 

2 H 

466 The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

ealdormen, and to the rich, and to all people. I ascend my ship with my 
merchandise, and sail over the sea-like places, and sell my things, and buy 
dear things which are not produced in this land, and I bring them to you 
here with great danger over the sea; and sometimes I suffer shipwreck 
with the loss of all my things, scarcely escaping myself." The question, 
" What do you bring us ?" demands an account of the imports, to which 
he answers, " Skins, silks, costly gems, and gold ; various garments, pig- 
ment, rvine, oil, ivory, and onchalcus (perhaps brass) ; copper, tin, silver, 
glass, and such like." The author has omitted to make his merchant tell 
us what things he exported, but from other sources we gather that they 
were chiefly wool, slaves, probably some of the metals, viz., tin and lead, 
and the goldsmith's work and embroidery for which the Saxons were then 
famous throughout Europe. The dialogue brings out the principle which 
lies at the bottom of commerce by the next question, " Will you sell your 
things here as you bought them there ?" "I will not, because what would 
my labour profit me ? I will sell them here, dearer than I bought them 
there, that I may get some profit to feed me, my wife, and children." For 
the silks and ivory, our merchant would perhaps have to push his adven- 
turous voyage as far as Marseilles or Italy. Corn, which used to be the 
chief export in British and Roman times, appears never to have been 
exported by the Saxons ; they were a pastoral, rather than an agricultural, 
people. The traffic in slaves seems to have been regular and considerable. 
The reader will remember how the sight of a number of fair English children 
exposed for sale in the Roman market-place excited Gregory's interest, and 
led ultimately to Augustine's mission. The contemporary account of 
Wolfstan, Bishop of Worcester, at the time of the Conquest, speaks of 
similar scenes to be witnessed in Bristol, from which port slaves were 
exported to Ireland — probably to the Danes, who were then masters of the 
east coast. " You might have seen with sorrow long ranks of young people 
of both sexes, and of the greatest beauty, tied together with ropes, and 
daily exposed to sale : nor were these men ashamed — O horrid wicked- 
ness — to give up their nearest relations, nay their own children, to slavery." 
The good bishop induced them to abandon the trade, "and set an example 
to all the rest of England to do the same." Nevertheless, William of 

Saxon Merchants. 467 

Malmesbury, who wrote nearly a century later, says that the practice of 
selling even their nearest relations into slavery had not been altogether 
abandoned by the people of Northumberland in his own memory. 

Already, on the death of Ethelbert, in 1016, the citizens of London had 
arrived at such importance, that, in conjunction with the nobles who were 
in the city, they chose a king for the whole English nation, viz., Edmund 
Ironside ; and again on the death of Canute, in 1036, they took a consider- 
able part in the election of Harold. At the battle of Hastings the burgesses 
of London formed Harold's body-guard. A few years previously, Canute, 
on his pilgrimage to Rome, met the Emperor Conrade and other princes, 
from whom he obtained for all his subjects, whether merchants or pilgrims, 
exemption from the heavy tolls usually exacted on the journey to Rome. 

During the peaceful reign of Edward the Confessor a much larger general 
intercourse seems to have sprung up with the Continent, and the commerce 
of England to have greatly increased. For this we have the testimony of 
William of Poictiers, William the Conqueror's chaplain, who says, speaking 
of the time immediately preceding the Conquest, " The English merchants 
to the opulence of their country, rich in its own fertility, added still greater 
riches and more valuable treasures. The articles imported by them, notable 
both for their quantity and their quality, were to have been hoarded up for 
the gratification of their avarice, or to have been dissipated in the indul- 
gence of their luxurious inclinations. But William seized them, and 
bestowed part on his victorious army, and part on the churches and 
monasteries, while to the Pope and the Church of Rome he sent an in- 
credible mass of money in gold and silver, and many ornaments that 
would have been admired even in Constantinople." 

We are not able to give any authentic contemporary illustration of the 
shipping of this period. Those which are given by Strutt are not really 
representations of the ships of the period : Byzantine Art still exercised a 
powerful influence over Saxon Art, and the illuminators frequently gave 
traditional forms ; and the ships introduced by Strutt, though executed by 
a Saxon artist, are probably copied from Byzantine authorities. The 
Bayeux tapestry is probably our earliest trustworthy authority for a British 
ship, and it gives a considerable number of illustrations of them, intended 


The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

to represent in one place the numerous fleet which William the Conqueror 
gathered for the transport of his army across the Channel ; in another place 
the considerable fleet with which Harold hoped to bar the way. The one 
we have chosen is the duke's own ship ; it displays at its mast-head the 
banner which the Pope had blessed, and the trumpeter on the high poop 
is also an evidence that it is the commander's ship. In the present case 

William the Conqueror's Ship. 

the trumpeter is known, from contemporary authority, to have been only 
wood gilded ; but in many of the subsequent illustrations we shall also 
find a trumpeter, or usually two, who were part of the staff of the com- 
mander, and perhaps were employed in signalling to other ships of the 

The Conquest checked this thriving commerce. William's plunder of 
the Saxon merchants, which was probably not confined to London, must 

Norman Merchants. 469 

have gone far to ruin those who were then engaged in it ; the general 
depression of Saxon men for a long time after would prevent them or 
others from reviving it ; and the Normans themselves were averse from 
mercantile pursuits. In the half-century after the Conquest we really 
know little or nothing of the history of commerce. The charters of the 
first Norman kings make no mention of it. Stephen's troubled reign 
must have been very unfavourable to it. Still foreign merchants would seek 
a market where they could dispose of their goods, and the long and wise 
reign of Henry II. enabled English commerce, not only to recover, but to 
surpass its ancient prosperity. An interesting account of London, given by 
William FitzStephen, about n 74, in the introduction to a Life of a Becket, 
gives much information on our subject : he says that " no city in the 
world sent out its wealth and merchandise to so great a distance," but he 
does not enumerate the exports. Among the articles brought to London 
by foreign merchants he mentions gold, spices, and frankincense from 
Arabia ; precious stones from Egypt ; purple cloths from Bagdad ; furs and 
ermines from Norway and Russia ; arms from Scythia ; and wines from 
France. The citizens he describes as distinguished above all others in 
England for the elegance of their manners and dress, and the magni- 
ficence of their tables. There were in the city and suburbs thirteen large 
conventual establishments and 120 parish churches. He adds that the 
dealers in the various sorts of commodities, and the labourers and artizans of 
every kind, were to be found every day stationed in their several distinct 
places throughout the city, and that a market was held every Friday in 
Smithfield for the sale of horses, cows, hogs, &c. ; the citizens were dis- 
tinguished from those of other towns by the appellation of barons ; and 
Malmesbury, an author of the same age, also tells us that from their 
superior opulence, and the greatness of the city, they were considered as 
ranking with the chief people or nobility of the kingdom. 

The great charter of King John provided that all merchants should 
have protection in going out of England and in coming back to it, as well 
as while residing in the kingdom or travelling about in it, without any 
impositions or payments such as to cause the destruction of their trade. 
During the thirteenth century, it seems probable that much of the foreign 

470 The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

commerce of the country was carried on by foreign merchants, who im- 
ported chiefly articles of luxury, and carried back chiefly wool, hides, and 
leather, and the metals found in England. But there were various enact- 
ments to prevent foreign merchants from engaging in the domestic trade 
of the country. In the fourteenth century commerce received much 
attention from government, and many regulations were made in the 
endeavour to encourage it, or rather to secure as much of its profits as 
possible to English, and leave as little as possible to foreign, merchants. 
Our limits do not allow us to enter into details on the subject, and our 
plan aims only at giving broad outside views of the life of the merchants 
of the Middle Ages. 

Let us introduce here an illustration of the ships in which the commerce 
was conducted. Perhaps the only illustration to be derived from the MS. 
illuminations of the thirteenth century is one in the Roll of St. Guthlac, 
which is early in the century, and gives a large and clear picture of St. 
Guthlac in a ship with a single mast and sail, steered by a paddle con- 
sisting of a pole with a short cross handle at the top, like the poles with 
which barges are still punted along, and expanding at bottom into a short 
spade-like blade. Some of the seals of this century also give rude repre- 
sentations of ships : one of H. de Neville gives a perfectly crescent- 
shaped hull with a single mast supported by two stays ; that of Hugo de 
Burgh has a very high prow and stern, which reminds us of the build of 
modern prahus. Another, of the town of Monmouth, has a more artistic 
representation of a ship of similar shape, but the high prow and stern are 
both ornamented with animals' heads, like the prow of William the Con- 
queror's ship. The Psalter of Queen Mary, which is of early fourteenth- 
century date, gives an illustration of the building of Noah's ark, which is a 
ship of the shape found in the Bayeux tapestry, with a sort of house within it. 
The illustration we give opposite from the Add. MS. 3,983, f. 6, was also 
executed early in the fourteenth century, and though rude it is valuable as 
one of the earliest examples of a ship with a rudder of the modern construc- 
tion ; it also clearly indicates the fact that these early vessels used oars as 
well as sails. The usual mode of steering previous to, and for some time 
subsequent to, this time was with a large broad oar at the ship's counter, 

Merchant Ships. 


worked in a noose of rope (a gumtnei) or through a hole in a piece of wood 
attached to the vessel's side. The first mode will be found illustrated in 
the Add. MS. 24,189, at f. 30, and the second at f. 5 in the same MS. 
The men of this period were not insensible to the value of a means of 
propelling a vessel independently of the wind ; and employed human 

A Ship, Early Fourteenth Century. 

muscle as their motive power. Some of the great trading cities of the 
Mediterranean used galleys worked by oars, not only for warfare, but for 
commercial purposes : eg. in 1409 aj>., King Henry granted to the 
merchants of Venice permission to bring their carracks, galleys, and other 
Tessels, laden with merchandise, to pass over to Flanders, return and sell 


The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

their cargoes without impediment, and sail again with English merchandise 
and go back to their own country. 

A very curious and interesting MS. (Add. 27,695) recently acquired by 

the British Museum, which appears to be of Genoese Art, and of date about 
A.d. 1420, enables us to give a valuable illustration of our subject. It occupies 
the whole page of the MS. ; we have only given the lower half, of the size 

The Whale Fishery. 


of the original. It appears to represent the siege of Tripoli. The city is 
in the upper part of the page ; our cut represents the harbour and a 
suburb of the town. It is clearly indicated that it is low water, and 

An Early Representation of the Whale Fishery. 

the high-water mark is shown in the drawing by a different colour. 
Moreover, a timber pier will be noticed, stretching out between high and 
low-water mark, and a boat left high and dry by the receding tide. In 

474 The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

the harbour are ships of various kinds, and especially several of the 
galleys of which we have spoken. The war-galley may be found fully 
illustrated in Witsen's " Sheep's Bouw," p. 186. 

The same MS., in the lower margin of folio 9 v., has an exceedingly 
interesting picture of a whaling scene, which we are very glad to introduce 
as a further illustration of the commerce and shipping of this early period. 
It will be seen that the whale has been killed, and the successful adven- 
turers are " cutting out " the blubber very much after the modern fashion. 



|HE history of the merchant navy in the Middle Ages is veiy much 
mixed up with that of the military navy. 

In the time of the earlier Norman kings we seem not to have 
had any war-ships. The king had one or two ships for his own uses, and 
hired or impressed others when he needed them ; but they were only 
ships of burden, transports by which soldiers and munitions of war were 
conveyed to the Continent and back, as occasion required. If hostile 
vessels encountered one another at sea, and a fight ensued, it seems to 
have been a very simple business : the sailors had nothing to do with the 
fighting, they only navigated the ships ; the soldiers on board discharged 
their missiles at one another as the ships approached, and when the 
vessels were laid alongside, they fought hand to hand. The first ships of 
war were a revival of the classical war-galleys. We get the first clear 
description of them in the time of Richard I., from Vinesauf, the his- 
torian of the second Crusade. He compares them with the ancient 
galleys, and says the modern ones were long, low in the water, and 
slightly built, rarely had more than two banks of oars, and were armed 
with a " spear " at the prow for " ramming." Gallemes were a smaller 
kind of galleys with only one bank of oars. 

From this reign the sovereign seems to have always maintained some- 
thing approaching to a regular naval establishment, and to have aimed at 
keeping the command of the narrow seas. In the reign of John we find 
the king had galleys and galliases, and another kind of vessels which were 


The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

probably also a sort of galley, called " long ships," used to guard the 
coasts, protect the ports, and maintain the police of the seas. 
The accompanying drawing, from one of the illuminations in the 

famous MS. of Froissart's Chronicle, in the British Museum (Harl. 4,379). 
is perhaps one of the clearest and best contemporary illustrations we have 
of these mediaeval galleys. It will be seen that it consists of a long low 
open boat, with outrigger galleries for the rowers, while the hold is le 

The Merchant Navy. 477 

free for merchandise, or, as in the present instance, for men-at-arms. It 
has a forecastle like an ordinary ship ; the shields of the men-at-arms who 
occupy it are hung over the bulwarks ; the commander stands at the 
stern under a pent-house covered with tapestry, bearing his shield, and 
holding his leader's truncheon. A close examination of the drawing 
seems to show that there are two men to each oar ; we know from other 
sources that several men were sometimes put to each oar. The difference 
in costume between the soldiers and the sailors is conspicuous. The former 
are men-at-arms in full armour — one on the forecastle is very distinctly 
shown ; the sailors are entirely unarmed, except the man at the stroke- 
oar, probably an officer, who wears an ordinary hat of the period, the rest 
wear the hood drawn over the head. The ship in the same illustration is 
an ordinary ship of burden, filled with knights and men-at-arms ; the 
trumpeters at the stern indicate that the commander of the fleet is 
on board this ship ; he will be seen amidships, with his visor raised 
and his face towards the spectator, with shield on arm and truncheon in 

If the reader is curious to see illustrations of the details of a naval 
combat, there are a considerable number to be found in the illuminated 
MSS. j as in MS. Nero, D. iv., at folio 214, of the latter part of the 
thirteenth century ; in some tolerably clearly drawn in the " Chronique 
de S. Denis" (Royal, 20, cvii.), of the time of our Richard II., at folio 18, 
and again at folio 189 v. Other representations of ships occur at folios 
25, 26 v., 83, 136 v. (a bridge of boats), 189 v., and 214 of the same MS. 

These ships continued to a late period to be small compared with our 
notion of a ship, and most rude in their arrangements. They were great 
undecked boats, with a cabin only in the bows, beneath the raised plat- 
form which formed the forecastle ; and the crew of the largest ships was 
usually from twenty-five to thirty men. An illumination in the MS. of 
Froissart's Chronicle (Harl. 4,379), folio 104 v., shows a ship, in which 
a king and his suite are about to embark, from such a point of view that 
we see the interior of the ship in the perspective, and find that there is a 
cabin only in the prow. The earliest notice of cabins occurs in the year 
A.D. 1228, when a ship was sent to Gascony with some effects of the 


The Merchants of the Middle Ages. 

king's, and 4s. 6d. was paid for making a chamber in the same ship for 
the king's wardrobe, &c. In a.d. 1242 the king and queen went to 

Ship of Richard Earl of Warwick. 

Gascony ; and convenient chambers were ordered to be built in the ship 
for their majesties' use, which were to be wainscoted — like that probably 
hi Earl Richard of Warwick's ship in the present woodcut This engraving, 

Ships of the Fourteenth Century. 479 

taken from Rouse's MS. Life of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick 
(British Museum, Julius, E. IV.), of the latter part of the fourteenth cen- 
tury, gives a very clear representation of a ship and its boat. The earl is 
setting out on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In the foreground we 
see him with his pilgrim's staff in hand, stepping into the boat which is to 
carry him to his ship lying at anchor in the harbour. The costume of the 
sailors is illustrated by the men in the boat. The vessel is a ship of 
burden, but such a one as kings and great personages had equipped for 
their own uses ; resembling an ordinary merchant-ship in all essentials, 
but fitted and furnished with more than usual convenience and sump- 
tuousness. In Earl Richard's ship the sail is emblazoned with his arms, 
and the pennon, besides the red cross of England, has his badges of the 
bear and ragged staff; the ragged staff also appears on the castle at the 
mast-head. The castle, which all ships of this age have at the stern, is in 
this case roofed in and handsomely ornamented, and no doubt formed the 
state apartment of the earl. There is also a castle at the head of the 
ship, though it is not very plainly shown in the drawing. It consists of a 
raised platform, the round-headed entrance to the cabin beneath it is seen 
in the picture ; the two bulwarks also which protect it at the sides are 
visible, though their meaning is not at first sight obvious. A glance at 
the forecastle of the other ships in our illustrations will enable the reader 
to understand its construction and use. Besides the boat which is to 
convey the earl on board, another boat will be seen hanging at the ship's 

The next woodcut is taken from the interesting MS. in the British 
Museum (Add. 24,189, f. 3 v.), from which we have borrowed other 
illustrations, containing pictures of subjects from the travels of Sir John 
Mandeville. We have introduced it to illustrate two peculiarities : the 
first is the way of steering by a paddle passed through a gummet of rope, 
still, we see, in use in the latter part of the fourteenth century, long after 
the rudder had been introduced ; and the use of lee-boards to obviate the 
lee-way of the ship, and make it hold its course nearer to the wind. The 
high, small, raised castle in the stern is here empty, and the forecastle is 
curiously defended by a palisade, instead of the ordinary bulwarks. 


The Merchants of the Middle Ages, 

Another reprc«entation of the use of lee-boar